Final farewell held for officers killed in Fredericton
Ben Cousins and Amanda Coletta, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Saturday, August 18, 2018 7:40AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, August 18, 2018 9:26PM EDT
Wearing a yellow tie and pocket square – his wife Sara’s favourite colour – Steven Burns choked back tears as he remembered “the most beautiful and caring woman I ever met.”
Hundreds of friends, family members and first responders from across the country gathered on Saturday to remember Fredericton police officers Sara Burns, 43, and Robb Costello, 42, who were fatally shot last week while responding to a call outside an apartment complex in the city’s north end.
Two civilians Bobbie Lee Wright, 32, and Donnie Robichaud, 42, were also killed in last week’s shooting. Wright’s family held a public visitation on Wednesday, but she will not have a funeral. Robichaud requested not to have a visitation or funeral, according to his obituary.
In a service that opened with an emotional rendition of “O Canada” from Fredericton native and award-wining singer Maesha Brueggergosman, the fallen officers were remembered as heroes whose loss had left a deep void in the small and quiet community.
Burns, a mother of three who fulfilled a dream of becoming a police officer at age 35, was “proud” to be working as a police officer, her husband said.
“Mid-sentence, she would just belt out, ‘I love my job,’” he said in an emotional eulogy.
“Sara has always been my hero and my angel, but now she is a hero and an angel for a community, a province and a nation,” he said. “Words cannot express how in love I was with her. She truly was my best friend.”
Gregg Morris, a family friend who spoke on behalf of the Costello family, said that it was Costello’s “lifelong passion” to be a police officer.
“Rob Costello didn’t become a hero because he died. He was a hero as he lived,” Morirs said during the ceremony. “He loved being a cop.”
Costello had two children and two stepchildren, who embraced him as their “Faux-Pa,” Morris said. He was also a caring son who once spent two days in hospital with his mother when she was sick, Morris recalled.
The loss of the two officers had “created a ripple effect that stretches out as far as the ocean is deep,” Leanne Fitch, Fredericton’s police chief, told the mourners gathered at the University of New Brunswick’s Aitken Centre.
She trained Costello when he first joined the Fredericton Police Force in 1998 and said that “it always warmed my heart to see him smile and know that he loved his job.”
Fitch also met Burns when she joined the forces as an auxiliary officer and recalled how proud Burns was to begin working the force full-time.
“I always felt that our police department and city were better because of her and that things would be okay in the years ahead,” Fitch said. “I don’t think Sara knew how proud I was of her, and I’m heartsick to be too late in saying so.”
Fitch, whose voice quivered as she eulogized her colleagues, called Burns’ and Costello’s actions during the shooting a “final, selfless act of bravery.”
“They were the type of people that exemplified all that was good, tender and joyful,” she said.
Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau, lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick, said both Burns and Costello “showed quick thinking, courage under fire and a willingness to risk their lives”—sacrifices, she added, that will not soon be forgotten.
Const. Debbie Stafford, a colleague of both fallen officers, served as master of ceremonies. Stafford said her colleagues will never be forgotten and the support from her officers have received from the across the country has helped them get through this difficult time.
“It was an incredibly powerful experience,” Brueggergosman told CTV News Channel. “I could have been anywhere in the world and I would have been here.”
A heartfelt procession
Earlier Saturday, two silver hearses carried the bodies of both officers as a procession of roughly 1,400 first responders made its way along the 2.5-kilometre route from Fredericton High School to Aitken Centre on the campus of the University of New Brunswick.
Among those to take part were officers from more than 150 agencies from across North America, including British Columbia, Ontario, Boston and Maine.
Burns co-owned a light-grey police horse named Grimsby, who followed directly behind its owner’s hearse.
Several police detachments surrounding Fredericton offered up their services so that members of the Fredericton police could take some time to mourn their fallen colleagues. The Saint John Fire Department covered the Fredericton area as well so local firefighters could be part of the procession.
Despite a heavy downpour on Saturday morning, hundreds of residents gathered along the route to show their support, many of whom donned blue ribbons as a sign of solidarity for their local police force.
“Some people are saying it does provide a little bit of closure and it means a little more for people to really come to terms and grasp just how enormous this loss really is,” CTV Atlantic reporter Laura Brown told CTV News Channel from along the procession route.
“Everybody in this community seems to know one another and has a connection to this loss. And it’s clear so many are wanting to come out and pay their respects.”
At the end of the march, pallbearers pulled both caskets -- draped in Canadian flags -- and brought them into the Aitken Centre, where a sombre crowd of roughly 4,000 waited.
The suspect in the shooting, 48-year-old Matthew Vincent Raymond, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 27.
With files The Canadian Press
These officers were among the 1,500 police, firefighters, military and other first responders who took part in today's parade, leading to the Regimental Funeral for Cst. Sara Burns and Cst. Robb Costello at the Aitken Centre in #Fredericton. @CTVAtlantic pic.twitter.com/lcma4nczdo— Bill Dicks (@BillDicksCTV) August 18, 2018
Travelling from #Fredericton to Halifax, flags are lowered throughout the #Maritimes including here at the NS / NB border in memory of two slain @CityFredPolice officers, and two civilians. @CTVAtlantic pic.twitter.com/1heRoKf69U— Bill Dicks (@BillDicksCTV) August 11, 2018