New Brunswick

'We were feeling like the hunted': Wounded Mountie recalls Moncton shootings

A Codiac Regional RCMP officer wounded in Justin Bourque's deadly shooting rampage in Moncton on June 4, 2014, testified Monday that police felt as if they were being "hunted" that night.

Const. Eric Dubois testifies at RCMP's Labour Code trial in the 2014 deaths of 3 Mounties

New Brunswick RCMP Const. Eric Dubois was shot in his left arm and both legs by Justin Bourque, a Moncton courtroom heard Monday. (RCMP)

A Mountie wounded in Justin Bourque's deadly shooting rampage in Moncton, N.B., on June 4, 2014, testified Monday that police felt like they were being "hunted" that night.

Const. Eric Dubois of the Codiac detachment said he had only his 9-mm pistol as he and a colleague crouched behind a shot-up police car, under fire by Bourque, who was armed with an M305.308 semi-automatic rifle and a Mossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun.

"We knew we didn't have the power to respond," Dubois told the ​trial examining whether the RCMP violated Canada's Labour Code in connection with the shooting deaths of three Moncton Mounties and the wounding of two others.

'If I had a carbine, there's absolutely no doubt in my mind [Bourque] would have gone down.'- Const. Eric Dubois, RCMP

The national police force is charged with violating four provisions of the Labour Code by allegedly failing to provide members with appropriate use-of-force equipment and training for responding to an active threat or active shooting event, and failing to ensure the health and safety of every person employed by the force.​​ 

"If I had a carbine, there's absolutely no doubt in my mind [Bourque] would have gone down," said Dubois, referring to the high-powered, short-barrelled rifle that has a longer and more accurate range than a pistol or shotgun.

In 20 minutes, Bourque gunned down five officers, including Dubois, who suffered wounds to his left bicep, the lower part of his left leg and upper part of his right leg that required surgery.

Dubois, who teared up as he recalled what happened that day, said it all started shortly after he began his shift at 7 p.m. Police responded to reports of a man dressed in camouflage walking around with a rifle in a residential area in the city's north end.

At the scene, one of the many citizens out on the streets told him the man had two rifles, a bow, a knife and a "focused" set of mind.

"It was weird," said Dubois, who radioed the information to his colleagues and tried to get curious onlookers who were taking videos and approaching police with questions to leave the area.

Police didn't know Bourque's intentions. But once he started firing, the threat became real, said Dubois.

"We were feeling like the hunted," he said.

RCMP Const. Martine Benoît testified last week about being under a hail of bullets, unable to drive away and unsure if anyone heard her call for help. (CBC)

Dubois, who worked in a morgue prior to joining the RCMP, said he saw Const. Fabrice Gevaudan on the ground and knew right away he was dead.

"There was nothing I could do." 

A few seconds later, Dubois heard another colleague's desperate pleas over the police radio. 

"He's shooting at me, he's shooting at me. Help me, help me," he recalled Const. Martine Benoît saying.

"At that point, I didn't think about my security at all," said Dubois, who rushed to assist Benoît. "I just wanted to get there and do the best I can … I'm going to do whatever is needed, even give my life.

"When I decided to join the RCMP, I was not a teenager. I was an adult. I knew the risk and I accepted that risk," he said with a shaky voice.

Earlier in the trial, Benoît testified about responding to reports of shots being fired, only to find herself under fire and unable to escape because the engine of her shot-up vehicle "was gone."

"It was a chaos situation," she said.

'​It's not a movie, it's reality'

From left to right, Const. Douglas James Larche, 40, from Saint John, Const. Dave Joseph Ross, 32, from Victoriaville, Que., and Const. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, from Boulogne-Billancourt, France, were fatally shot in Moncton by Justin Bourque. (RCMP)
Dubois drove up beside her disabled cruiser, pulled her out and dragged her behind his vehicle, where they both took cover. That's when Dubois got shot.

"I could see the hole in my pants and shirt and the blood coming out," he said.

Dubois said he knew Bourque's weapon was a semi-automatic because the shots were coming so fast.

Bourque was in his line of vision for three of four seconds as he crossed the street in front of him, approximately 30 to 37 metres away, he said.​

Dubois thought about shooting at him, but didn't. The maximum range of his duty pistol was about 25 metres, and there were houses behind Bourque.

"It was more than obvious I was going to miss the target," he said. "It's not a movie, it's reality."

Officers are accountable for every bullet they fire, Dubois said, and "when you shoot, you shoot because you're sure."

A shotgun would also have been too dangerous to use because of its unreliable spread pattern and the risk for civilian casualties, he said.

Handgun vs. carbine

A carbine, however, could have made the difference, he suggested. 

"It's night and day compared to the handgun," said Dubois. "It's easy to handle, manipulate. It's really accurate and precise."

"With [a] pistol, I have to always get closer and put myself in jeopardy." Being armed with a carbine would have enabled him to hide from the target and shoot from a safe distance, he said.

No carbines were available to the Codiac detachment on the night of the shootings, the trial has heard.

During cross-examination by RCMP lawyer Mark Ertel, Dubois said he had asked to "have a better bulletproof vest."

RCMP have Level 2 bulletproof vests, but many police forces have Level 3, he said. Dubois said he was willing to pay for the better vest himself, but wanted the force to approve it so he could wear it legally.

Although there was new hard body armour in the trunk of his car, Dubois chose not to put it on. He said the ceramic plates weigh the vests down and might slow him down.

"At that particular moment, I was more confident to go the way I did go," not wearing it, he said.

Off-duty officer offered to help

RCMP officers used their vehicles to create a perimeter in Moncton as they searched for gunman Justin Bourque. (Marc Grandmaison/Canadian Press)
The court also heard Monday from Const. Simon Grenier, who was off duty on the night of the shootings, but put on his uniform and headed to the office to offer his help after a neighbour told him an officer had been shot.

He said he tried calling the office first, but couldn't get an answer. He called dispatch and "it was just ringing and ringing."

When he finally got through, he asked, "Is it true? Do you need members?" The dispatcher replied, "I don't [expletive] know," and hung up, he said.

Made own decisions

He said he did ask a supervisor for one of the new Colt Canada C8 carbine weapons before heading out, but was told none were available. They were in Oromocto, being used to train officers from another detachment, the trial has heard.

Although Grenier had not been trained on carbines by the RCMP, he was previously in the military and served in Bosnia, where "you basically sleep with it."

He felt carbines were the weapon they needed that night. They're fast because there's no need to reload and accurate, making it easy to hit the target, he said.

Communications sucked that day.- Simon Grenier, RCMP constable

Grenier, who now works on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's security detail, said he jumped in a vehicle with a colleague anyway and headed to the scene.

Asked by the Crown who made decisions through the night, Grenier said he made his own decisions, echoing the previous testimony of other officers.

"Communications sucked that day," he said. 

Justin Bourque is serving five life sentences with no chance of parole for 75 years after pleading guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

Two months have been set aside for the Labour Code trial, which started April 24.

It's scheduled to resume on Tuesday morning with testimony from Sgt. Sam Tease, who worked on the 2015 MacNeil Report, which reviewed the Moncton shootings and made 64 recommendations, including that officers be equipped with carbines.

With files from Gabrielle Fahmy