MONCTON, N.B. – The city of Moncton came to another standstill Tuesday, this time to bid a sorrowful farewell at a regimental funeral for three Mounties killed in a shooting rampage that left New Brunswick’s second-largest city under siege for 30 hours.
The funeral, attended by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov.-Gen. David Johnston, was preceded by a parade of 2,700 law enforcement officers from across Canada and the United States. They were led by pipers and drummers and four RCMP officers on horseback.
During the three-hour service, held inside an old hockey arena packed with 7,000 mourners, the brother of one of the three men killed said the death of Const. Douglas James Larche, 40, has left him feeling overwhelming despair.
“I stand here before you with an unbearable sadness, disbelief, rage, because a great man was taken away from us far too soon,” said Daniel Larche, a master seaman in the Royal Canadian Navy.
“Never in my worst nightmare did I envision a stitch in time that I would be giving his eulogy.”
The other officers killed last Wednesday were Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, and Dave Joseph Ross, 32.
Ross’s brother-in-law, Adrian Vander Ploeg, recalled how the RCMP officer was making dinner at home 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 walking through the streets of Moncton’s north end.
“For those closest to Dave, that barbecue left open says everything about who Dave was and his devotion to those around him,” Vander Ploeg said.
“Only recently, Dave turned to (his wife) Rachael and said, ‘I am such a happy man. I love going to work every day, I have a wife that I love so much, a beautiful son and another baby on the way. … Rachael, we are so blessed.'”
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 Moncton Coliseum. An RCMP Stetson sat atop each casket at one end of the arena. Danny, a police dog that served with Ross, was led inside.
The prime minister acknowledged the “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 decide 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, commanding officer for the New Brunswick RCMP, 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 arrived to take their places. Once seated, the arena was a patchwork of colours, mainly red but also a variety of blue and green uniforms.
In front of a stage were three large portraits of the officers in their dress uniforms. On one side of the arena were several large wreaths and colourful bouquets.
Outside the arena, Brenda Jaillet of Oromocto, N.B., said the shooting deaths have deeply saddened her husband, a retired RCMP officer.
“It’s a brotherhood,” Jaillet said before the service. “What has affected these three members has affected him. It could have been him at any time during his career.”
Among the mourners were RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and a number of premiers.
On the streets of Moncton, shopkeepers placed signs in their windows proclaiming, “Moncton Strong.” A large makeshift memorial continues to grow outside the local RCMP detachment, where heaps of flowers, candles, teddy bears and personal notes have spread from the front steps to the sidewalk.
As Mounties and other police officers gathered for the parade, local residents reached out to say thank you, often shaking hands or sharing a brief embrace and a few kind words.
Six other sites in Moncton and four more outside the city were set up for mourners to watch the televised service. A public visitation service held Monday drew hundreds of people.
Gevaudan, Larche and Ross were gunned down after they responded to a report of a man with firearms in a residential neighbourhood. Dubois and Goguen were treated in hospital and released.
The shootings and the ensuing manhunt for the alleged killer brought the city of 69,000 to a halt 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 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.