New Brunswick

Moncton shootings: Hope replaces grief a year after rampage

A year after a gunman went on a shooting rampage in a quiet neighbourhood in Moncton’s north end, Capt. Ron McFadden says he still has flashbacks from the horrific events of June 4.

Capt. Ron McFadden says there are constant reminders in neighbourhood where tragic shooting occurred

A year after a gunman went on a shooting rampage in a quiet north Moncton neighbourhood, Capt. Ron McFadden says he still has flashbacks from the horrific events of June 4. 2:49

A year after a gunman went on a shooting rampage in a quiet north Moncton neighbourhood, Capt. Ron McFadden says he still has flashbacks from the horrific events of June 4.

McFadden, a veteran firefighter, was putting out a car fire when his crew was dispatched to the centre of the hot zone, where five police officers would be shot and a neighbourhood would be placed under lockdown.

As he pulled into the neighbourhood, he was waved past one police cruiser riddled with bullet holes. McFadden made his way to Const. Fabrice Gevaudan where, hidden in a garage, he performed CPR on the fallen officer for two hours, while trying to keep out of the gunman's sight.

RCMP Constables Douglas Larche, Dave Ross Fabrice Gevaudan were killed a year ago when a gunman went on a shooting rampage in the north end of Moncton. (RCMP)
"We were in the middle of the hot zone as we were there working on Const. Gevaudan," he said. "We could hear the shots going off in the background, so we lowered the garage door for safety purposes, because we didn't know what his intentions were, whether he was going to come back or where he was.

"So since it was in the hot zone, we had to remain with the patient until further medical [personnel] could come and either pronounce or take over CPR."

Gevaudan died on that night along with constables Dave Ross and Douglas Larche.

It is a night that is etched in the memories of so many Moncton residents and first responders, who lived and worked through the excruciatingly tense hours of the shooting and lockdown.

McFadden is one of the many people who have been recognized for their efforts on that night. He has received a medal of valour from the New Brunswick Association of Fire Chiefs, and last week he was awarded a commissioners' commendation for bravery, which is the RCMP's highest departmental award.

The distinctions recognize his work on that evening, which happened not far from his firehouse.

"To happen so close to home, considering the fact that he actually walked through the backyard of this — of our home, our station," he said.

"It hits close to home cause just as residents in the area, he was walking through their yards right, so he walked through our yard as well," he said.

Pastor helps deal with tragedy

"So it's very surreal."

What McFadden had no way of knowing when he was performing CPR on Gevaudan, tucked inside a garage, was that gunman Justin Bourque would be on the loose for about 30 hours, evading police and keeping the community under a strict lockdown.

Capt. Ron McFadden, a veteran Moncton firefighter, spent two hours performing CPR on RCMP Const. Fabrice Gevaudan hidden inside a garage. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

On normal days, McFadden works a stone's throw from Martin Kreplin, the minister of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church.

On June 4, Kreplin was driving back to his church on Hildegard Drive when he was stopped by police officers with guns drawn. 

He was able to come within a kilometre of the church, and he called his wife, who was in the building along with 40 other people.

In the days and months after the shooting, Kreplin said he has spoken to those who were confined to the church while Bourque roamed the neighbourhood.

Community healing

He said he's encountered many different reactions of people who lived through the tense two-day lockdown. The pastor said he's tried to help those who have come forward to talk about living in the lockdown zone or what they saw.

"There are others who witnessed things no other person should ever have to witness, and we were able to help some of those people as well who continue to relive some of those experiences as we reach the anniversary of that time," he said.

Martin Kreplin, minister of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, was stuck outside of his church, while 40 other people were inside the building during the lockdown last year. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

There has been some opportunity for the community to heal.

Bourque received five life sentences and will have no chance of parole for 75 years after pleading guilty to killing three RCMP officers and wounding two others. At the sentencing, the judge called the shootings "one of the most horrific crimes in the history of Canada."

There have also been several attempts to bring the community together by hosting events, such as block parties and a recent beautification project on Hildegard Drive.

McFadden is still working at the Hildegard fire station, not far from where he tried for two hours to resuscitate Gevaudan.

This community is rising again. There's tremendous strength and a return of hope.- Martin Kreplin

He said he believes the community is still mending but he said people have bonded very well and the support he and others have received is overwhelming.

"The community suffered just as much as we did, and they have to live with it every day," McFadden said.

"It happened in our area, so there's constant reminders as you go by it every day. So it's going to be a long process."

When the anniversary comes around on Thursday, Kreplin will not be in the area.

The pastor will be in Vancouver, but he said he knows the community is recovering slowly.

McFadden's fire station and Kreplin's church are metres apart on Hildegard Drive. The two men say the community has come together after the June 4 shootings.
"While there's some return of trauma as we reach the anniversary and people understandably would relive some of those experiences, have flashbacks and what not, generally I think the community is doing very well," he said.

Kreplin draws on Moncton's motto, Resurgo, which his Latin for "I rise again," when trying to come to grips with how people in the area have moved beyond the nightmare of June 4.

"This community is rising again. There's tremendous strength and a return of hope," he said.

"While there's a sense of loss of innocence in the community, there's a return to relative normalcy as people navigate through the community and generally do so quite freely and without fear or concern about their immediate safety."

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