‘In that mo­ment, it was very real’

Moun­ties re­live Monc­ton mur­der spree at RCMP trial

Cape Breton Post - - Canada - BY AD­INA BRESGE THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

It was a sunny sum­mer evening in Monc­ton’s north­west end. Af­ter a streak of rain, tem­per­a­tures had climbed, and peo­ple filled the streets bask­ing in first days of warmth.

As chil­dren played out­side, a cam­ou­flaged man was spot­ted skulk­ing down the mid­dle of a road car­ry­ing what ap­peared to be two long guns, rais­ing enough sus­pi­cion for sev­eral peo­ple to call 911.

One caller said it seemed that the man had some­thing on his mind, like he was on a mission. There was some­thing about his ex­pres­sion, an­other told po­lice; she be­lieved he was a threat.

Const. Fabrice Ge­vau­dan took the lead as of­fi­cers chased the sus­pect into the woods, Const. Shelly Mitchell said. Mitchell shooed a group of chil­dren to get in their homes and pushed ahead with her weapon drawn.

Then came the first round of gun­fire. “In that mo­ment, it was very real,’’ Mitchell said. “This was re­ally hap­pen­ing.’’

In the next 20 min­utes, Ge­vau­dan and two other Moun­ties were shot dead. Two more of­fi­cers were wounded in the June 2014 Monc­ton mas­sacre, and Mitchell said she hasn’t been op­er­a­tional since that month. Nearly three years later, the RCMP and sev­eral of its of­fi­cers sat on op­po­site sides of the aisle in a Monc­ton pro­vin­cial court­room at the force’s Labour Code trial last week.

The trial will re­sume to­day.

It’s al­leged the RCMP failed to pro­vide mem­bers and su­per­vi­sors with the ap­pro­pri­ate in­for­ma­tion, in­struc­tion and train­ing in an ac­tive-shooter event, and didn’t give mem­bers the ap­pro­pri­ate equip­ment.

Sev­eral Moun­ties who re­sponded to the scene teared up on the stand as they re­lived the night of Justin Bourque’s shoot­ing ram­page.

While their rec­ol­lec­tions of that fate­ful evening were in­cor­po­rated in the RCMP’s in­de­pen­dent re­view of the shoot­ings, court heard of­fi­cers speak pub­licly about the event for the first time.

Wit­nesses told over­lap­ping ac­counts of an un­prece­dented spree of vi­o­lence in a city that had a zero-homi­cide rate in the three years prior to the in­ci­dent.

They de­scribed fu­tilely try­ing to re­vive wounded col­leagues, feel­ing out-armed by a gun­man out to as­sas­si­nate po­lice, and fear­ing they would be his next tar­get. One wit­ness re­called speak­ing to her dead mother as blood gushed from her gun­shot wounds, not want­ing to be alone and know­ing no am­bu­lance was com­ing for her. Cpl. Peter MacLean, who was team leader at the scene, told the court he tripped and fell as of­fi­cers pur­sued Bourque into the woods. Gun­fire rang out, then an of­fi­cer yelled that he’d been shot at, said MacLean.

MacLean, who has 32 years of po­lice ex­pe­ri­ence, tes­ti­fied that he found Ge­vau­dan ly­ing face down in a back­yard with his weapon next to him on the ground. He said he turned the 45-yearold of­fi­cer over and saw he had been shot twice in the torso.

MacLean said he peeled off Ge­vau­dan’s vest and tried to stop the bleeding. Ge­vau­dan wasn’t breath­ing, but MacLean said he thought he felt a weak pulse in the of­fi­cer’s neck, but it could have just been in his fin­ger­tips.

MacLean told the court he was per­form­ing CPR when he heard a sec­ond vol­ley of shots.

“It was un­usual, be­cause in po­lice shoot­ings, the norm is they shoot us be­cause we’ve con­fronted them and then they try to re­treat,’’ said MacLean. “In this case, he wasn’t re­treat­ing.’’

He and Const. Rob Nick­er­son de­cided they were too ex­posed, so they dragged Ge­vau­dan to a low ditch by a fence, MacLean said. An­other of­fi­cer ar­rived as they tried to re­sus­ci­tate Ge­vau­dan. Hav­ing lost his ra­dio in the chase, MacLean said he grabbed Ge­vau­dan’s re­ceiver and weapon, and left the other of­fi­cers to “do what they could.’’

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