MONCTON, N.B. — The brother of one of the three New Brunswick Mounties killed in the line of duty told a regimental funeral service Tuesday that the death of Const. Douglas James Larche has forever changed his life and left him feeling an overwhelming despair.
Daniel Larche, a master seaman in the Royal Canadian Navy, spoke of the bond he shared with his brother during his eulogy — a connection now severed.
“I stand here before you with an unbearable sadness, disbelief, rage, because a great man was taken away from us far too soon,” he told mourners inside the Moncton Coliseum.
“Never in my worst nightmare did I envision a stitch in time that I would be giving his eulogy.”
Police and members of the public filled the hockey arena for the funeral service for Larche, 40, and fellow constables Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, and Dave Joseph Ross, 32.
Ross’s brother-in-law, Adrian van der Ploeg, recalled how the RCMP officer was making dinner but dropped everything, including leaving the barbecue lid up and the garage door open, to be among the first to respond to a report of a gunman last Wednesday evening.
“For those closest to Dave, that barbecue left still open says everything about who Dave was and his devotion to those around him,” van der Ploeg said.
Gevaudan was remembered by Geoffrey McLatchie, his spiritual adviser, as a doting husband and stepfather.
“Fabrice lived a heart-centred life, a life of joy and happiness, a life where he connected to the community in which he lived,” McLatchie said.
“He was very comfortable in his own skin and he was his own man.”
RCMP pallbearers carried the flag-draped coffins of the slain officers into the arena.
A beige RCMP Stetson sat atop each casket at the front of the service. Danny, a police dog that served with Ross, was led inside.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged a “searing grief” that has enveloped New Brunswick, a province he said he’s proud to call his ancestral home.
“Together, we struggle for answers,” Harper said. “We ask what in God’s name happened here and why. We may never know.”
Harper said while the justice system will establish what happened, one thing is certain.
“We do not need a verdict to know that what happened here is an outrage,” he said.
Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown, the commanding officer of the RCMP in the province, saluted the dead officers as well as constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen, two other Mounties who were wounded in last week’s shootings.
“With the eyes of the nation upon us today, I want to publicly say how incredibly proud I am of each and everyone of you,” he told the officers in the crowd.
“I only wish,” he said, before pausing to choke back tears, “I only wish that I could have told Doug, Dave and Fabrice that in person.”
Before the funeral service began, people inside the arena stood and applauded for 45 minutes as police officers from across Canada and the United States arrived to take their places.
In front of a stage were three large portraits of the officers in their dress uniforms.
There were also three Canadian flags on the left and right sides of the stage.
Before the funeral service, a procession of about 2,700 police officers wound its way through the city with pipers and drummers leading the mourners.
Four RCMP officers on horseback followed the 1.6-kilometre-long procession, leading three hearses carrying the dead officers.
Members of the RCMP and municipal police forces, as well as correctional officers and U.S. border patrol officers, were among those who marched to the Moncton Coliseum, which can hold about 7,000 people.
Public transit buses picked up officers in advance of the televised service.
Brenda Jaillet of Oromocto, N.B., said the shooting deaths have touched her husband, a retired RCMP officer.
“It’s a brotherhood,” Jaillet said outside the coliseum before the service. “What has affected these three members has affected him. It could have been him at any time during his career.”
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson and Gov.-Gen. David Johnston were among the mourners. Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and a number of premiers also attended the service, which lasted about three hours.
Six other sites in Moncton and four more outside the city were set up for mourners. A public visitation service held Monday drew hundreds of people.
Gevaudan, Larche and Ross were gunned down last Wednesday evening after responding to a report of a man with firearms in a residential neighbourhood in the northwest area of Moncton. Dubois and Goguen were treated in hospital and released.
The shootings and the ensuing 30-hour manhunt for the alleged killer brought the city of 69,000 to a standstill until an arrest was made just after midnight Friday.
Gevaudan, originally of the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt, was remembered in his obituary as an advocate of women’s rights who adored his wife and “Twin Flame” Angela, and stepdaughter Emma.
The obituary for Larche of Saint John, N.B., says he died while working as a plainclothes officer who “without fear or hesitation ran towards danger to protect his community and family.” He leaves behind his wife Nadine and three daughters, Alexa, Laura and Mia.
Ross’s obituary says the dog handler died doing what he loved. He is survived by his wife Rachael and son Austin, with another child expected in the fall.
Justin Bourque, 24, of Moncton is facing three charges of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. He is scheduled to be in provincial court July 3.