‘In that moment, it was very real’
Mounties relive Moncton murder spree at RCMP trial
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.’’