On 4 June 2014, the city of Moncton, New Brunswick, was the scene of one of the worst police killings in Canadian history. Justin Bourque acted out his paranoia and hatred of the government by shooting and killing three RCMP officers and wounding two others. A review of the police response found that the RCMP lacked the equipment and training to properly respond to such incidents.
Justin Bourque's nickname for the Canadian government was "Fedzilla." Obsessed with video games and schooled in the anti-authority lyrics of heavy-metal music, the 24-year-old New Brunswick labourer was convinced police officers were really soldiers acting for a state determined to oppress the masses. On 4 June 2014, Bourque dressed in camouflage, strapped a rifle and shotgun to his back and set out from his trailer home in Moncton to kill as many police officers as he could.
The first call to police came at 7:18 p.m. A woman reported seeing an armed man walking through a trailer park in Moncton's north end. "There's a guy walking up the road with a gun at his side," she told police. "He walked right by us.… He's all dressed army-wise."
By the time the first RCMP officer arrived, Bourque had disappeared into a thickly wooded area surrounded by suburban homes.
Less than 30 minutes later, officers reported hearing gunfire. Within seconds, Const. Fabrice Gevaudan — who with other officers had been searching for Bourque at the edge of the wood — shouted into his two-way radio: "He's shooting at me! He's shooting at me!" Then, nothing. Several frantic transmissions followed as police called out to their colleague: "Fabrice, are you OK? Copy, Fabrice?"
Bourque had shot Gevaudan twice in the torso and moved on. Other officers found Gevaudan lying face down on the ground and dragged him into a nearby ditch where they tried to revive him with CPR, but the 45-year-old father died soon afterwards.
"Somebody help me"
Two minutes after Gevaudan was gunned down, Bourque fired four rounds into the windshield of a rapidly approaching police SUV. Constable Dave Ross, a 32-year-old RCMP dog handler, fired twice through his own windshield to defend himself, but Bourque found his mark first, fatally shooting Ross in the head as his SUV closed in.
At this time, one neighbour reported hearing Bourque shout: "Don't worry, I'm not out to kill civilians. I'm after government officials." Bystander Robert Vautour said he heard Bourque yell: "Bring me more cops!"
On Hildegard Street, Bourque hid himself in a shaded ditch and fired at Const. Darlene Goguen, who was in an RCMP cruiser. As the bullets shattered the windows of her vehicle, Goguen grabbed her police radio and screamed: "I'm shot! I'm shot! I'm shot in the head! … I'm shot twice! I'm shot in the right arm, somebody help me!"
Twenty-three seconds later, at the other end of the same street, Const. Eric Dubois was also wounded by Bourque's gunfire. Dubois had driven his police cruiser to rescue Const. Martine Benoit — herself under fire and radioing for help as bullets slammed into her cruiser — when Dubois was hit. Both Dubois and Benoit escaped from the situation alive.
Third Mountie Down
As Bourque walked along Hildegard, newspaper photographer Viktor Pivovarov captured an image that would soon flash around the world. The photo shows Bourque striding confidently around a stand of evergreen trees, clutching a rifle in his right hand. The sleeves of his green, camouflaged shirt are rolled up and the butt of a 12-gauge Mossberg 500 shotgun protrudes from behind his back. His long, shaggy hair is held back by a dark bandana and the sun catches a faint hue of red in his thin beard.
At 8:04 p.m., Const. Douglas Larche arrived nearby in plain clothes and soft body armour. As he emerged from his unmarked car carrying a shotgun, nearby residents started banging on their windows, trying to warn him that the shooter was hiding in a thicket of trees.
Witnesses reported seeing Larche, 40, grab his neck and fall beside his car as he was shot on Isington Street. Though he was wounded, he managed to get back up and fire seven shots at Bourque with his pistol before he was killed by a bullet to the head.
The three killings happened within a chaotic 20-minute span.
State of Siege
Bourque, carrying a backpack, two knives, a gas mask and some food, then fled to another wooded area near Highway 15.
Later that night, police confirmed that three officers — Gevaudan, Ross and Larche — had died as a result of gunshot wounds, and that two other constables, Goguen and Dubois, were expected to recover from their injuries.
Police warned residents in the city's north end to lock their doors and remain inside. For more than 29 hours, the city of 69,000 would remain under a virtual state of siege as police blocked roads and widened their search with armoured vehicles, helicopters and other aircraft.
"I've got the radio and the news channel on.… I've been going from the backyard window to the front door and back to the backyard," resident Tim Holt told The Canadian Press as the lockdown dragged into 5 June. "It's kind of ridiculous but it's all I can do."
Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown, commanding officer for the New Brunswick RCMP, told a news conference that Bourque was "very mobile and still considered very dangerous, armed and dangerous."
At 11:51 p.m. on 5 June, the crew aboard a Transport Canada aircraft used an infrared camera to spot a human heat signature in the woods near Mecca Drive. As police moved in, Bourque emerged from the trees with his hands up, his glowing white image clearly outlined on the infrared scan shown later in court. The ghostly image shows Bourque kneeling, then sprawling face down on the ground, as police rush to cuff him.
7,000 Attend Funeral
In a rambling videotaped statement to police on 6 June, Bourque admitted he used a semi-automatic rifle to shoot five officers. His legally obtained and registered weapon was a Chinese-made Poly Technologies M305, 308-calibre rifle, which is similar to the M14 used widely by the US military in the 1960s. He said he specifically targeted police to inspire others to follow him in a rebellion against the state. In his statement, he also spoke about his strict Roman Catholic upbringing as well as social engineering, climate change, tyrants, threats from the Russians and Chinese, and something he called the "black curtain."
Asked how he felt immediately after the shootings, Bourque told an investigator: "I know this is going to sound pretty messed up, but I felt pretty accomplished." When told that each of the officers he killed had children, Bourque said: "Every soldier has a wife and kids. It's all about what side you choose."
Six days after the shooting rampage, the RCMP organized a regimental funeral in Moncton for the three slain officers. As the event began, 2,700 uniformed officers marched in a funeral procession led by pipers, drummers and four Mounties on horseback. Among the 7,000 mourners who packed an old hockey arena were Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston.
Less than two months later, Bourque pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two charges of attempted murder.
In an affidavit filed with the court, Bourque's father, Victor, said his son became depressed and paranoid in the 18 months before the killings. He said when his son purchased another gun to add to his collection, he was kicked out of the family home he shared with his parents and six siblings.
"Often, he would pace back and forth while talking about things that made no sense to me or other members of the family," the statement said. "He was ranting and raging against all authority and concerning himself with matters which are well beyond his control.… This behaviour I can only describe as paranoia."
On 28 October 2014, during his sentencing hearing in New Brunswick's Court of Queen's Bench, Bourque's voice cracked with emotion when he apologized to the victims' families, saying the reasons he gave for the killings were the words of "an arrogant pissant."
Harshest Criminal Penalty
Three days later, Chief Justice David Smith said Bourque was motivated by a deep hatred for authority when he decided to start killing police officers in a blind rage. "The crime committed is one of the worst in Canadian history," Smith told the packed Moncton courtroom. "The murders were carried out as ambushes … He only stopped because he was thirsty, tired and outgunned."
Smith said Bourque was immature, socially awkward, played an inordinate amount of video games and had been obsessed with guns since he was 14. The judge said Bourque was "the perfect storm in terms of social adaptability," a troubled, home-schooled young man who "progressed from video games to acting them out in real life."
Bourque was sentenced to an unprecedented 75 years in prison — three consecutive 25-year parole ineligibility periods — the harshest criminal penalty Canada has seen since the last state-sanctioned executions in 1962.
RCMP Response Criticized
An independent review of how the RCMP responded to the shootings and subsequent manhunt concluded that the first officers on the scene acted with great bravery, but also made a litany of mistakes. The report says there was confusion as to how many officers were shot, where they were and where ambulances were needed. The report said even though the first wave of officers knew Bourque was armed, no one put on hard body armour to protect themselves.
Later on, a lack of supervision led to a "chaotic and disorganized" scene as officers poured into Moncton to help, the report said. There were problems with incompatible police radios, confusing radio chatter, a shortage of hard body armour and ignorance among officers about whether they even had such protective gear. Shotguns were eventually distributed to many officers, but very few of the first responders were qualified to use the detachment's high-powered rifles.
The RCMP said it accepted all of the review's 64 recommendations.