Four dead, including two police officers, in Fredericton shooting
I thought it was all over at that point. But when I looked out, the guy started shooting again. It was hard to gauge where it was coming from. DAVID MACCOUBREY WITNESS
‘I hear more shots and looked out and there’s two police officers on the ground,’ says resident of Fredericton area where four people were slain
Two Fredericton police officers rushing to the aid of two slain civilians were shot and killed on Friday morning, touching off a lockdown and standoff that paralyzed a large swath of New Brunswick’s capital city.
The deaths of Constables Lawrence Robert Costello, 45, and Sara Mae Helen Burns, 43, marks the most lethal day for Canadian police since June, 2014, when a lone gunman shot five RCMP officers, killing three, just 180 kilometres east in Moncton.
Authorities have yet to name the two civilian victims or the alleged shooter, only identifying him as a 48year-old man from Fredericton. Police said he was in hospital “undergoing treatment for serious injuries” as of Friday afternoon.
A local hospital reported treating “multiple victims,” but officials would not elaborate on the number of injured.
At an afternoon news conference, police held back significant details of the tragic narrative that unfolded that morning. But the scant description they did provide, combined with statements from neighbours, offers a rough outline of events.
Residents and neighbours of a lowrise apartment complex on Brookside Drive, in the city’s north end, said they heard a cluster of gunshots around 7 a.m. One resident called the four-building complex a “low-rent kind of place” that attracted the odd visit from police, but never for anything as serious as firearms.
“You get the odd domestic here,” David MacCoubrey said. “And someone threw a big party a year or so ago. You never hear of anything as heinous as a guy shooting up the place.”
Tim Morehouse said he was in his apartment when he heard someone shout: “Shut up! Shut up!”
He said he heard two gunshots, and then three more. He said he looked out his window and saw the body of a man on the ground, in the back parking lot of 237 Brookside Dr.
It was right around the time for a shift change when a “shots fired” call came into Fredericton Police, the 105officer municipal force that serves the city.
Constable Costello, a 20-year veteran of the force, and Constable Burns, who joined two years ago, “jumped in a cruiser and attended the scene,” said deputy chief Martin Gaudet at the news conference. “They were the initial officers on scene.”
As they arrived on the scene, they saw two civilians on the ground and walked toward them. “That’s when they were shot,” deputy chief Gaudet said.
“I hear more shots and looked out and there’s two police officers on the ground,” Mr. Morehouse said. “I called 911 and they came and checked on them and they were shot,” he said.
The second burst of gunfire sent residents and neighbours diving for cover. Across the street, Bernice Tucker thought it was awfully early for contractors to be firing a nail gun, when she then heard loud knocks at her door. She opened it and five officers told her to get dressed and follow them to safety. “As we were getting out my front door, there were a bunch more shots,” she said. “We had to duck down behind the wheel of the car to avoid them. One officer had his gun out. It was quite the experience.”
When the gunfire let up, police ushered her to a nearby home.
Through social media, the force warned residents to remain inside and lock their doors.
Back inside the residential complex, Mr. MacCoubrey ducked down on his kitchen floor. When he got up and looked out his window 20 minutes later, he saw a Fredericton Police armoured vehicle outside.
“I thought it was all over at that point,” he said. “But when I looked out, the guy started shooting again. It was hard to gauge where it was coming from.”
Mr. MacCoubrey later posted a video online taken by a neighbour that appears to show an officer atop an armoured vehicle firing gas canisters into a second-floor window.
Around 9:30 a.m., with the entire neighbourhood in lockdown, officers stormed the apartment where the alleged shooter had hunkered down and took the individual into custody.
Half-an-hour later, police lifted the lockdown, leaving disoriented neighbours to process what they’d just experienced.
“I’m just mad,” Mr. MacCoubrey said. “I’m tired of this stupid violence. There’s too much violence, too many guns. We have to come up with a better solution.”
As of Friday afternoon, the RCMP had taken over the homicide investigation and were helping Fredericton Police with regular calls for service across the city. Fredericton Police Chief Leanne Fitch also called in the Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team, which investigates all serious incidents involving police actions in that province, to probe the actions of her officers that morning.
Other police forces are providing shift relief to allow some Fredericton officers time away from active duty, Chief Fitch said.
Chief Fitch said she heard the incident play out on her police radio as she was driving home from Halifax early in the morning. “In this dark time, I can say with certainty that the citizens of Fredericton were being exceptionally well-served. I couldn’t be prouder of the men and woman who serve the city.”
The tragedy brought an outpouring of sympathy from dignitaries across the country. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised the two officers and said Canadians would not forget their actions. “There is no greater gesture than to put oneself in harm’s way to protect the life of another,” he said in a statement. “This morning, first responders rushed to the scene of danger. They did not think twice about what they had to do to keep their fellow Canadians safe.”
Fredericton Mayor Mike O’Brien said he had spoken to Mr. Trudeau and that the entire city was grieving over the deaths. “Protecting us today, they gave their lives,” he said.
Even after the police-ordered lockdown was lifted, the morning’s shooting chilled activity around the city. The Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival − though separated from the scene of the crime by the Saint John River − urged locals not to go to the box-office opening for next month’s event due to the shooting. At lunchtime, downtown restaurants were quiet.
Elsewhere across the country, flags at other police forces and government buildings were lowered to halfmast in solidarity with the town.
Outside Fredericton Police headquarters, a makeshift memorial took shape as residents dropped flowers and notes of condolence. One read simply, “Fredericton Police Force, Your City Has Your Back.”
Fredericton Police and RCMP officers converge on an area where four people, including two police constables, were killed on Friday.
Shooting in Fredericton