MONCTON, N.B. — Heavily armed RCMP officers searched through the night for a gunman suspected of killing three Mounties and wounding two others in Moncton, N.B., as police asked residents in a large section of the city at sunrise today to remain indoors.
A photo distributed by police on Twitter shows 24-year-old Justin Bourque of Moncton wearing military camouflage and carrying two rifles.
The two injured officers were being treated for wounds that the RCMP described as non life-threatening.
On Twitter, the RCMP released a map of a large portion of the city where they wanted people to remain inside with their doors locked.
They warned people to expect roadblocks and traffic disruptions.
Schools were closed and the city pulled its buses off the roads because of the manhunt.
A number of RCMP officers from Colchester County have been deployed to the area, however it is unknown at this time as to how many.
Const. Damien Theriault broke down in tears at a media briefing as he spoke of the deaths of his three colleagues late Wednesday night.
“We are professionals,” Theriault said. “We will ensure the security of the public. We are going to do that.”
He said police believed the suspect was at large in the Pinehurst subdivision area of the city early on Thursday morning. Police first responded at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, he said.
Danny Leblanc, 42, said he saw the shooter in the distance Wednesday evening, wearing a camouflage outfit and standing in the middle of the street with a gun pointed at police cars.
The construction worker said he believed it was an RCMP officer until he heard a burst of automatic gunfire coming from the man’s gun.
“That guy was standing on the road afterwards and he was looking towards us,” he said.
He said he quickly retreated into his home with his family, adding a neighbour posted on social media that a kitchen window was shattered by gunfire.
Leblanc said few people on his normally quiet street were sleeping as they awaited word at midnight on whether arrests had been made.
“It’s just crazy. We’re chatting with our friends on Facebook and we’re not going to bed until this guy is caught. I’m sure nobody in Moncton is sleeping because he seems to be all over the place,” he said.
The deaths of the three officers has shocked the city, he said.
“It’s devastating. I don’t know if he was on a hunt for them, or what,” said Leblanc.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered his condolences to the families, colleagues and friends of those affected by the shootings.
“We also offer our prayers for the speedy recovery of those injured,” he said in a statement.
“This violent incident is a stark reminder that our men and women in law enforcement put their lives on the line in Canada every day to protect our citizens and communities.
“The sacrifice of these brave officers will be honoured and remembered.”
Mayor George LeBlanc also offered his condolences to the families of the police officers who were killed and those who were injured.
“It is a terrible tragedy,” he said.
“We as a city must pull together as a family to support those who have suffered losses.”
Sean Gallacher, who lives near the area where police were concentrating their search, said he heard what he now believes were gunshots but initially thought his daughter had dropped some toys on the floor above him.
“I was downstairs and heard a few bangs,” said Gallacher, 35.
“I went to check but she hadn’t dropped anything. Then I heard the news and realized what it actually was.”
The RCMP confirmed the deaths of the three officers on Twitter at about 11 p.m.
Based on information from the RCMP’s Honour Roll page on its website, the last Mountie to die from a gunshot was Const. Douglas Scott on Nov. 5, 2007. He was shot while responding to a call for help involving an impaired driver at Kimmirut, Nunavut.
The most recent police officer killed in the line of duty was Const. Steve Dery of the Kativik police force in northern Quebec. Dery, 27, was shot and killed after he and another constable responded to a domestic violence call on March 2, 2013.
The shootings in Moncton also brought back memories of an RCMP tragedy in Mayerthorpe, Alta., on March 3, 2005, when Constables Anthony Fitzgerald Orion Gordon, Lionide (Leo) Nicholas Johnston, Brock Warren Myrol and Peter Christopher Schiemann were shot and killed.
Officials with the Horizon Health Network said the Moncton Hospital was treating two people who were listed in stable condition. The hospital was placed on Code Orange after the shootings to prepare it to handle multiple casualties as extra staff were brought in.