MONCTON, N.B. – A type of quiet settled over the neighbourhood where Justin Bourque grew up Friday as residents struggled with news that a man raised in a well-liked, church-going family was now at the centre of one of New Brunswick’s worst mass killings.
Residents in the west-end Moncton district expressed a mix of sadness, disbelief and concern for the family after Bourque’s arrest in the shooting deaths of three Mounties.
A man who described himself as Bourque’s childhood friend teared up as he stood in front of the family home, saying he was trying to figure out what happened to his pal, how he could end up accused of lashing out with such violence.
“I’ve known him since I was eight,” said the man who didn’t want to be named. “I was just hoping that they were here because I wanted to share my condolences. … It’s unbelievable.”
Three officers were killed and two were wounded on Wednesday night.
Bourque made his first court appearance Friday charged with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
A local church administrator said it had been many years since she had seen Bourque, who moved out of the family home about 18 months ago.
But Dianne LeBlanc said his parents never missed a Sunday service at the Roman Catholic church around the corner from their home. They often arrived, she added, with at least a couple of their grown children in tow.
“They’re a good family,” LeBlanc said in the diocese offices adjacent to the church.
“They were such good Catholics. I’m sure (parishioners) are very sad for them.”
LeBlanc added that parents Victor and Denise home-schooled their children, who were raised with French as their first language.
“I didn’t know of any troubles,” she said of the 24-year-old suspect, who was apprehended by police a few kilometres from his childhood home.
“They’re very quiet. It’s shocking.”
Others in the neighbourhood were protective of the family.
A woman who lived across the street only offered a short response to reporters by saying people in the leafy residential area had received news of the arrest “very sadly.” She refused to share any more information about her neighbours.
“My heart is with the family,” said the woman, who did not want to give her name.
The Canadian Press did not get a response at the family home on Friday.
The man next door to the Bourques said he was concerned for the well-being of Bourque’s parents, a couple he described as kind and friendly.
John Doubt said Victor Bourque has shovelled his driveway and watered his flowers whenever he’s been out of town.
“My heart really goes out to them, they must be in terrible shape,” said Doubt, who has been living next door for the last 17 months.
Across town, a former colleague of Bourque’s at the local Walmart said he’s been thinking about the family since police first released the identity of the suspect.
“I thought, ‘Man, they must be horrified right now,'” said Trever Finck, who started hanging out regularly with Bourque in 2007.
He recalled meeting his friend’s folks at the house several times and described them as kind, low-key people who tolerated Bourque’s noisy passion for playing electric guitar.
Finck also remembered learning about Bourque’s love of guns the first time he visited the family house, where he said his new friend had a shotgun and a rifle stored in a cabinet in his bedroom.
“Definitely a proud gun owner,” said Finck, who added that they drifted apart over the last couple of years, though they were on good terms and occasionally saw each other.
“He was never a violent person. … He never sought out violence, but he was always ready to defend himself if it came to that.”
Finck, who last saw Bourque at the Walmart about three weeks ago, said his friend was an outgoing guy who liked camping, hanging out with buddies and being the life of the party.
But Finck said he noticed changes in Bourque’s behaviour over the last year, particularly after he created a new Facebook page for himself in February and filled it with anti-police messages and conspiracy theories.
“I just want to know what was going through his head,” he said.
“What caused such a shift from the guy I knew?”
— With files from Alison Auld in Halifax.
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