MONCTON, N.B. – Dressed in a red serge uniform, his beaming bride by his side, RCMP Const. Dave Ross looks every inch the picture of a man in his prime.
The stunning photograph on Facebook, taken four years ago when he married Rachael Vander Ploeg, provides an unsettling glimpse of what was lost earlier this week when Ross and two other Mounties were gunned down in Moncton.
Ross, a police dog handler originally from Victoriaville, Que., was 32 years old.
The RCMP in New Brunswick said Friday the other victims were Const. Douglas James Larche, 40, of Saint John, N.B., and Const. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, from Boulogne-Billancourt, France.
In Victoriaville, where Ross grew up, family members said he was the father of an 18-month-old son and that his wife is due to give birth in September.
Linda Ross, his aunt, said the young Mountie had found his “soulmate” in Rachael.
“He was really happy, really passionate about his work,” Linda Ross said.
She said she last saw her nephew at Christmas, recalling how he spent much of his time chasing after his little boy.
Another relative, Lucinda Ross, said her cousin developed an early passion for law enforcement after talking to an uncle who worked for the RCMP.
Dave Ross joined the force in July 2007.
“He excelled throughout his training,” she said. “He was such a beautiful person, very generous, very kind, beyond reproach.”
Lucinda Ross said that when she learned of the shootings Wednesday night, she said to herself: “I hope that Dave wasn’t dispatched to the scene. The next day, I learned the terrible news.”
Larche, a 12-year member of the RCMP, was recognized six years ago for saving the life of a child in Moncton.
Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown said Friday that Larche earned a commander’s commendation for reviving an unconscious baby.
Larche worked in Miramichi and Doaktown in New Brunswick before he joined the detachment in the Moncton area as a highway patrol and general duty officer.
While working in Doaktown, Larche left a big impression on a teenager with a bad attitude and mischievous group of friends.
Joe Carr recalled how Larche would often cut him some slack when he ran afoul of the law while speeding down the backroads of central New Brunswick.
“I had a bit of a rebellious streak and he got to know me that way,” said Carr, who now works as a flight nurse with Ambulance New Brunswick.
“He was never abrasive. He was a straight-shooter and he got his point across, showing that he cared at the same time. He cut me loose on a few things that I could have gotten in trouble for.”
Carr said that when he went to university to study nursing, he had to go to the Doaktown detachment to get a criminal records check and Larche was there.
“He joked and laughed at how he couldn’t believe my record was clean,” Carr said. “He said he was proud of me for what I was doing.
“So many of these officers are really involved in the community. They do a lot for people who never get a chance to say thanks. I did get the chance. He’s going to be missed so much. He was an awesome guy.”
Brown said Const. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan was born in France and attended the RCMP training academy in Regina in 2008 after he received his citizenship.
He was posted to the Codiac detachment in Moncton, where he worked as a general duty police officer.
“I can’t dig deep enough to explain the sadness that we all feel,” Brown told a news conference Friday.
“This is a trying time for our members as we have lost three of our own and two more are hospitalized. … The work of our members was professional and effective. They deserve my utmost respect.”
Outside the Moncton detachment, people placed flowers at a makeshift memorial on the doorstep. One of the bouquets was wrapped in a ribbon with a message that reads, “Fallen heroes.”
— By Michael MacDonald in Halifax.