FREDERICTON – Family members of three RCMP officers killed in a 2014 Moncton attack say the Fredericton shooting deaths will bring a fresh wave of trauma to New Brunswick — and bring painful memories to the surface for many.
The shootings that killed four people on Friday — including two municipal police officers — come just four years after Justin Bourque’s rampage that killed Constables Doug Larche, Fabrice Gevaudan and Dave Ross.
Daniel Larche, the brother of Doug, said news of the Fredericton deaths are difficult to hear.
“I can empathize with what these people are about to go through and hopefully they’ll have the support and some of the tools they need to get through it,” the 46-year-old said in a telephone interview.
“It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be hard for them.”
Constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen were also injured when Bourque went hunting police officers in a Moncton neighbourhood on June 4, 2014. Bourque had targeted police in the hopes of sparking an anti-government rebellion.
Angela Gevaudan, the widow of Fabrice Gevaudan, said in a telephone interview that she was feeling a sense of protectiveness on Friday for the families, knowing how they will be overwhelmed by emotions as they receive news of the deaths.
They will need to just receive simple information for a time, as they struggle to process the shock of the deaths of their loved ones, she said.
“It’s going to take a lot of time to process, and the images, moments and memories and everything coming in is going to be difficult for everyone involved,” she said in an interview.
“It’s heartbreaking, and of course I’m thinking of everyone who is impacted by it and I’m just hoping that they’ll get the support they need.”
Since she lost her husband, Gevaudan has done volunteer work as an ambassador for Tema, a group that provides help and advocates for first responders who are suffering from PTSD.
She has also offered support and shared her experience with others suffering from trauma.
Gevaudan said she didn’t really want to speak about her own reactions on Friday, saying she didn’t want to make the latest deaths in Fredericton about her own difficult memories.
However, the former 911 operator said it will be important for first responders who are angered or upset by the latest deaths to let their emotions come out, rather than suppress them.
“Let emotions you are feeling be acknowledged and be felt. That itself helps you process the trauma and helps with the healing,” she said.
Larche said the difficult memories of his brother’s death continue to be powerful four years after the Moncton murders, and to hear that others in uniform have been killed is hard news to receive.
“There’s an extra attachment I guess, or connection with first responders, given my own attachment to my brother,” he said.
“People who step up try to do their best to protect people. … A lot of things this country has is because people were willing to risk their lives for something better.”
In addition, he said he believes many people in Moncton who witnessed the shooter moving through the city or who dealt with the injured or wounded police officers are going to struggle with resurfacing memories.
“It’s tough for New Brunswick,” he said.
“Had it happened in Moncton it would have been an extra trigger for people. There are lots of people who have still not recovered. … It’s still a traumatic event for people.”
Meanwhile, across Canada, policing leaders sent messages of support and condolences on New Brunswick’s latest tragedy.
Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais tweeted his support. He said he had been in contact with the Fredericton force.
“I have spoken to Chief Fitch personally to offer her any support we can give. We stand with @CityFredPolice while they deal with this situation.”
Saint John, N.B., police Chief Bruce Connell sent condolences in a news release.
“I want to extend our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and colleagues of the two Fredericton Police Force officers who lost their lives today in a senseless and tragic event,” said Connell.
Gevaudan said those messages will be appreciated by the families over time. But for now those who are directly involved will need time and space, she said.
“One who is learning of this could be devastated for sure. It’s violent. … I think we have a hard time understanding how certain people can choose to do these kinds of things. And I think it adds to our sadness and devastation in this kind of moment.”
“It adds to the trauma because it feels likes it’s … not right, and it shouldn’t happen.”
— Story by Michael Tutton in Halifax.
Follow (at)mtuttoncporg on Twitter.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly quoted Angela Gevaudan as saying some families were “darkly impacted,” when in fact she was referring to families who were “directly impacted.”