Hundreds gather at vigil for fallen RCMP officers
Candles lined the streets of Moncton Friday evening as hundreds of residents gathered for a sombre vigil in honour of three RCMP officers killed in a shooting rampage.
The front steps of Codiac RCMP headquarters in downtown Moncton overflowed with flowers, balloons and messages of support as the local community came together the grieve the tragic loss of three young officers.
During a press conference Friday morning, Commanding Officer of the RCMP in New Brunswick Roger Brown said the organization, "lost three incredible members."
The RCMP has confirmed the identities of the fallen members are:
• Const. David Ross, 32, from Victoriaville, Que. Ross, a police dog handler, leaves behind his wife, who is six months pregnant, and their young son. He graduated from the police foundations program at La Cite college in Ottawa and joined the Codiac Regional RCMP in 2007. In a statement, La Cite president Lise Bourgeois described Ross as a "model student" and said the school will keep its flags at half-mast to honour him and the other fallen officers.
• Const. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, from Boulogne-Billancourt, France. Gevaudan was posted to the Codiac RCMP detachment in 2008 and worked as a general duty police officer.
• Const. Douglas James Larche, 40, from Saint John, N.B. Larche was posted to three RCMP detachments since 2002, most recently in Codiac where he worked in highway patrol and as a general duty officer. In 2008 Larche received a Commander's Commendation for saving the life of an unconscious baby in Moncton.
Brown, also the assistant commissioner, confirmed the identities of the two injured officers as Const. Darlene Goguen and Const. Eric Dubois.
He said both officers are "recovering well."
"Fortunately most people will never have to experience what our officers have gone through in the past couple of days," Brown said.
He said the RCMP is now tasked with "rebuilding the sense of security and calmness" that was in Moncton prior to the police shootings.
"Thankfully this morning we can all go back home and move about in this city freely and with a sense of confidence that was there before," Brown said.
For the residents of the city of 70,000, the grieving process has started.
Jessica Smith, a life-long Moncton resident, attended Friday’s vigil and said the people of Moncton would come together and heal from this tragedy.
“Our city has always been known for its pride, we’re very strong and I’m very proud to be a Monctonian, I’m very proud of the people who came out here -- it’s a tragedy for sure, but we’re strong and we’ll get through,” Smith said.
The crowd, filled with both young and old, broke out in applause as local first responders, EMS officials and military officers made their way towards the make-shift memorial to offer their condolences.
“It is so sad, I know how badly those people are hurting, I think everybody’s hurting,” said one resident at the vigil.
Residents were also heard shouting “Moncton Spirit” and “Thank You RCMP,” showing their gratitude to officers who put their lives on the line to keep their community safe during those tense hours.
“For all they went through and the terror they were probably feeling themselves and they put all that aside for us,” said a woman visiting the memorial.
At press conference held in Victoriaville on Friday afternoon by Ross’ family, the young officer was remembered as a loving family man who was passionate about his work.
“My son was my hero,” said Helene Rousseau, Ross’ mother, with tears streaming down her face. “He’s a hero. I’m proud of him, for everything he’s done, everything he’s accomplished.”
And she said he died doing what he loved the most.
“He would call us and would always tell us stories about his work,” Ross’ mother Helene Rousseau said. “So he died doing what he loved."
Ross’ younger brother Olivier Juneau-Rousseau also recalled fond memories of growing up with Ross despite the age difference.
“It was always him who took me hunting when I was little,” he said. “He taught me a lot of things.”
“I was proud of him, he was my idol,” he added.
Jeff Pyke, one of Ross’ life-long friends, fought back tears as he visited the RCMP memorial on Friday.
“Doug was just a great friend, the standard to which all men measure themselves as husbands and fathers and professionals,” Pyke said.
Const. Larche, a 12-year member of the RCMP, was recognized six years ago for reviving an unconscious baby and received a commander’s commendation for his heroic efforts.
Joe Carr, a local resident of Doaktown, N.B., said he would often run into Larche as a teenager.
Carr recalled how the officer would often cut him some slack when he was found speeding down the backroads of central New Brunswick.
"I had a bit of a rebellious streak and he got to know me that way," said Carr, who now works as a flight nurse with Ambulance New Brunswick.
"He was never abrasive. He was a straight-shooter and he got his point across, showing that he cared at the same time. He cut me loose on a few things that I could have gotten in trouble for," Carr said.
Brown said that while Moncton has been left devastated by the shootings, he is proud of his officers.
"I can't dig deep enough to explain the sadness that we all feel," Brown said in a news conference Friday.
"This is a trying time for our members as we have lost three of our own and two more are hospitalized. ... The work of our members was professional and effective. They deserve my utmost respect."
In honour of the Mounties killed and injured in the attack, the CN Tower will be lit up on Friday night in red, blue and gold – the colours of the RCMP guidon.
With files from Christina Commisso, Corinne Ton That, Rubab Abid and The Canadian Press