New Brunswick

Moncton shooting: Witnesses recall search for safety

Some residents of a suburban Moncton, N.B., neighbourhood spent a stressful night in lockdown as RCMP searched for a gunman who killed three RCMP officers and wounded two others.

'It was too late, he went down. We knew it was over,' says 1 witness who saw a Mountie get shot

RCMP shooter at large

8 years ago
Duration 3:56
Moncton resident Joan Macalpine-Stiles describes seeing shooting suspect Justin Bourque pass through her backyard

Some residents of a suburban Moncton, N.B., neighbourhood spent a stressful night in lockdown as RCMP searched for a gunman who killed three RCMP officers and wounded two others Wednesday evening. 

On Friday morning, RCMP announced they had apprehended the suspected shooter, Justin Borque, 24, in a wooded area nearby where the shootings occured. 

Bill Daigle, who lives one block from where the shooting took place, said police presence in his neighbourhood overnight was heavy.

It sounded like it was happening in our backyard.- Bill Daigle, Moncton resident

"I've never heard so many sirens in all my life," Daigle said, explaining helicopters circled his house and armoured vehicles drove through the area frequently.

He was working with his wife in his front lawn when he heard what he first believed were fireworks.

"It quickly became apparent that it was gunfight that we were hearing," he said. "It sounded like it was happening in our backyard."

Daigle's teenage daughter was working at a nearby grocery store during the shootings. She did not arrive home until after 5 a.m. Thursday as the store went into lockdown and staff inside were secured in a safe area.

She is "still in shock," but glad to be home, Daigle said.

Daigle, who runs a local pawn shop, said "this sort of thing just doesn't happen in this part of the world."

Stressful, sleepless night

Will Njoku lives with his wife and three children in Moncton in an area near the shooting.

He spent a "sleepless" night in his basement, he told CBC News on the phone.

He first heard what sounded like firecrackers Wednesday night, he said. But a neighbour soon called to tell him a gunman was on the loose nearby.

"That kind of freaked us out, obviously," he said.

Around 9 p.m., he and his wife woke up their three children and moved them to the basement. While his boys will "never hear anything about it," Njoku said it was a stressful night, with he and his wife exhausted from wondering where the gunman might be.

"It became more and more stressful as the night wore on," he said.

'Not like any shots we had heard before'

Dr. Heidi James, whose home borders the woods where the suspect is believed to be, told CBC News "the night was largely sleepless for me."

James, her husband and their two young children eventually took refuge in their basement, with her children under the impression they were camping out in a different part of the house for fun.

James said she had some concerns for her family's safety during the night because the suspect is still at large.

"It's certainly terrifying," she said. "No doubt about it."

James said she has been hearing a helicopter passing over her house regularly Thursday morning, and has seen some police vehicles and officers pass by her house.

​On Wednesday, James was watching cartoons with her family when she heard five loud bangs outside.

James said neighbourhood kids sometimes play with air rifles in the woods near her home, so at first she thought the sounds may be harmless.

"But these were not like any shots we had heard before," she said. 

Shortly after hearing what were clearly gunshots, James received a call from a friend who lives nearby alerting her to the manhunt unfolding outside her home, she said.

"My husband peered out the window and saw a car with the windows blown out and what he believed was a body on the ground covered by a blanket," she said.

“Once we got our wits about us we took the kids to a safe place … first to a bathroom, then to a closet and then eventually back to a safe bathroom.”

'It was hard to breathe'

Heather Boucher Robinson lives just outside the mandatory lockdown area, but placed her house under self-imposed lockdown Wednesday night.

Around 9:30 p.m., Boucher Robinson returned home from Wal-Mart after seeing the heavy police presence and said "we locked everything down. We closed the drapes. We got into the back bedroom."

There we were in the dark, on all fours, crawling across our kitchen floor down to the basement.- Heather Boucher Robinson

She barely slept after one particularly scary experience. She was on the phone with a co-worker when her husband told her to hang up and drop to the floor. There were rumours of gunshots around the corner from their home.

"There we were in the dark, on all fours, crawling across our kitchen floor down to the basement," she said.

Boucher Robinson said that moment is when she felt truly afraid, thinking that the gunman could be outside her home.

"It was hard to breathe," she said.

Only after 9 a.m. Thursday did they leave the basement and re-enter the main area of the house.

Boucher Robinson, who moved into her home six months ago, said it was "a complete panic" Thursday night.

"We know how to prepare if there's a big winter storm or a nor'easter coming. We don't know how to prepare for some kind of emergency," she said, adding she moved to the Maritimes so she could live in "a slow-paced, safer, trusting area."

"That feels like that's been shattered here in the last 15, 16 hours."

'Like a storm day without the storm'

Sonia Dever took her two-year-old daughter to her in-law's home this morning after her husband left for work because she felt safer there as the house is further away.

During the drive, the streets were barren, she said. Most businesses are closed, public transit is not running and postal workers are not delivering mail.

"It's like a storm day without the storm," Dever said.

Last night, Dever says she didn't sleep much and checked on her daughter about every five minutes "to make sure that she was still there."

Dever said she couldn't begin to imagine how the families of the killed RCMP officers are feeling.

"And the ones that are out there still protecting us: hats off."

Vanessa Bernatchez was with several other people in the living room of her home in the Pinehurst subdivision of Moncton, watching out the window as an RCMP officer took cover behind a police cruiser and scoped out the area, apparently looking for the shooter.

Once we got our wits about us we took the kids to a safe place … first to a bathroom, then to a closet.- Heidi Adams, Moncton resident

Bernatchez recorded the scene on her smartphone and later uploaded the video to Facebook.

She told CBC News that at one point, she watched as the gunman came walking down the street, but the RCMP officer ducking behind the vehicle did not see him.

Another person with Bernatchez attempted to tap on the glass window in an effort to warn the officer.

The Mountie was unable to hear their warning.

“It was too late, he went down. We knew it was over,” Bernatchez said.

On the video, she can be heard screaming: “Call 911.”

Bernatchez told CBC News that after shooting the RCMP officer, the gunman casually walked out of view into a nearby wooded area.

'Clearly aiming' for the driver

Local photographer Daniel St. Louis took some of the earliest photos from the scene. He was at a friend’s house when he saw tweets and received text messages referencing a heavy police presence in the area, so he decided to take what gear he had with him and drive over to where RCMP were reportedly setting up roadblocks.

Shattered glass surrounds a police SUV with multiple bullet holes in the front windshield at the scene of the shootings in Moncton, N.B. (Daniel St. Louis/Submitted)
In just a few blocks, St. Louis came across two vehicles with bullet holes in them or blown-out windows, one of which clearly had blood in and around it, he told CBC News.

The second vehicle, an unmarked RCMP SUV, had "very sharp, small bullet holes in the front windshield," he said. From what he saw, he said he believed "somebody was aiming, clearly aiming, for the driver as a target."

The area was calm, he said, with some pedestrians still walking nearby and cars driving in the neighbourhood.

At one point, St. Louis said, he came across a body on the side of a street. He called police, who told them they knew of the body.

As he called police, an off-duty fireman arrived at the scene and checked the person's pulse.

While St. Louis said he did not take a good look at the body, he did see signs that the person was hit in the face.

That's when he said he thought, "OK,  this is a serious reality check and it's more than what I had bargained for."

 At that point, he decided it was time to leave the scene and get to safety with his kids.

“We just locked the doors,” St. Louis said.