An entire town in southeastern New Brunswick was locked down Thursday morning as police continued a manhunt for a heavily armed man dressed Rambo-style in camouflage in connection with the killing Wednesday of three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers. Two other officers were injured.
It was uncertain whether the shootings in the city of Moncton were the result of a confrontation with police or an ambush of some kind. The incident apparently began when police received a call about a man in camouflage.
A witness told the Associated Press he saw the apparent shooter in the distance Wednesday evening, wearing a camouflage outfit and standing in the middle of the street with his gun pointed at police cars. Then he heard automatic-weapon fire and retreated into his home.
The gunman was reportedly carrying two rifles and a knife.
Police said they were hunting for 24-year-old Justin Bourque in connection with the shootings. A person by that same name has a Facebook page filled with rants about the police, pictures of guns and lyrics from the heavy metal band Megadeth. For more on the Facebook posts, see this Morning Mix story.
Business Insider interviewed Caitlin Isaac, who said she worked with Bourque at Wal-Mart several years ago until he was fired. “I never took him seriously, but he always said he wanted to go out with a bang and bring people with him,” Isaac said. He wanted to “give people something to remember him for.”
Frightened residents of the town were told to go into their homes, lock the doors and stay there for the time being. Police urged everyone else to stay out of Moncton until the situation is resolved.
Schools were closed Thursday. Police set up checkpoints and searched cars one by one. CBC reporter Melissa Oakley said “two officers with rifles opened the doors to our van and the tail gate. Rifle aimed in the vehicle.”
“There is an active shooter in the Moncton area. We’re asking residents to stay in their homes and lock their doors,” spokeswoman Jullie Rogers-Marsh told the CBC.
WARNING: Video contains language which some may find offensive.
Moncton residents witness shooting from inside home.
Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc urged all residents to pay strict attention to the RCMP warnings. “The police and other emergency personnel are working under extremely difficult conditions and need our complete cooperation. Stay home, stay safe. If you cannot get home, seek out a friend or family and remain there until you are advised otherwise,” LeBlanc said in a statement, according to the AP.
The RCMP said on Twitter that they were looking for 24-year-old Justin Bourque of Moncton in connection with the shooting.
— Beth Johnston (@BethPJohnston) June 5, 2014
Resident Heidi James told CTV News Channel that she was at home with her husband and young children when they heard gunfire. “I heard probably about four to five shots. They sounded quite loud,” James said.
James said she moved her children away from windows as worried friends and family began texting her to make sure her family was safe. She said her husband peeked out the window and saw a body, covered with a blanket, next to a “shot-out” vehicle. ‘We haven’t been told yet that it’s safe to leave our house,’ James said, adding roads in her neighborhood have been barricaded off.
According to the CBC:
Joan MacAlpine-Stiles said she saw the gunman when she went to open up a window. ‘I said, “Oh my God, there he is with camouflage and the headband and a gun, and it looked like a bow he had with him. And I mean he was just through our backyard.’
Vanessa Bernatchez posted a video on Facebook from the moment the gunman opened fire, apparently killing an officer. Watching from inside her living room with several others, Bernatchez said it appears the Mountie didn’t see the shooter until the gunfire erupted. It was too late, he went down. We knew it was over.
The Toronto Star reported:
Will Njoku was emptying the dishwasher just before 8 p.m. local time when he heard the first shots. He thought they were firecrackers, set off by teenagers celebrating the nice weather. ‘I’m not very familiar with guns or gunshots,’ said the 42-year-old, who lives on Rennick Rd. in west Moncton with his wife, four-year-old son and two-year-old twin boys. Then Njoku heard the sirens, and five more shots. ‘It seemed like we were in danger,’ said Njoku, who works as a motivational speaker. ‘That’s the real moment to think that.’
The Moncton area in New Brunswick has a population of about 138,000 people and is known as a transportation hub serving Canada’s Maritime provinces. The city’s homepage proudly proclaims that it’s been “recognized by Readers Digest as the most polite and honest city in Canada.”