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Fallen officers' families gather with prime minister after tragedy

Last Updated Aug 12, 2018 at 10:43 pm EST

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with families of fallen Fredericton police officers Sunday, and said he told their children something he had learned – mourning is made a little bit easier when you’ve got the whole country’s support.

Trudeau and his son Hadrien went to Fredericton’s police headquarters to lay flowers at the growing memorial for the two officers and two other victims of Friday’s violence.

Trudeau had planned to march in Sunday’s Pride parade in Fredericton, but his plans changed after the shooting at a north-side apartment complex that killed Bobbie Lee Wright, Donnie Robichaud, Const. Robb Costello and Const. Sara Burns.

Speaking to reporters, he appeared to allude to the public support he received after the death of his own father, the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

“I talked to their kids and highlighted something that I had experienced was that when you have a whole community, and indeed a whole country supporting you through terrible grief, it actually does make it a little bit easier – not much easier but a little bit easier,” he said.

A subdued Pride parade went ahead Sunday afternoon, with Mayor Mike O’Brien calling it a way for Fredericton’s residents to begin healing.

“It’s a way for our community to start rebuilding our faith in community and having a celebration,” O’Brien said Saturday. “There’s a way to celebrate even in the midst of this grief.”

It began with a moment of silence, and parade organizers said in a Facebook post that they were marching “in appreciation of our Chief of Police Leanne Fitch, the first responders and all the officers who risk their lives on a daily basis to keep us safe.”

The force announced Sunday that a regimental funeral “to celebrate the lives of our fallen members” will be held on Saturday at the Aitken University Centre at the University of New Brunswick.

The Fredericton Police Force’s public information officer, Alycia Bartlett, said in a release that a book of condolences will be available to the public in the council chambers of Fredericton City Hall on Monday.

There has been an outpouring of grief in the small city, with residents stopping by police headquarters to drop off flowers, notes and teddy bears for the fallen officers.

“I want to extend my sincere thanks to all of you on behalf of the Fredericton Police Force,” Fitch said in a written statement Sunday.

“Your support, as demonstrated by the flowers and cards that are left in front of the police station is appreciated by us all. Everyone in our community is hurting with the deaths of four of our citizens but the support of the community, to our fallen officers, the two others killed and all of their families and friends is appreciated.”

On Sunday evening, Trudeau attended what was described as a “Fredericton Pride social event” at a local pub.

He spoke to the gathering and explained why he wasn’t able to march in the parade.

“Obviously with circumstances, I was honoured to be able to spend some time with our police services here and with their families, who we obviously stand together with,” he said.

“But I’m also very pleased to know the Pride continued, people were celebrating, people were strong, people recognized the tragedy but were also looking for a opportunity to pull together and come together, and that’s exactly what you did.”

Asked by reporters earlier in the day about potential new gun laws, Trudeau said it wasn’t the time to be talking about that, but alluded to various gun tragedies including the shooting in Toronto’s Greektown that left two people dead and 13 others injured.

“Obviously I think there is a reflection going on around the country, around how we can ensure our communities are safer, individuals are safer, our police officers are safer,” he said.

“I think there are natural conversations to be had around now: Do we need to take further steps, do we need to go further? And these are things we are talking with Canadians about, we are talking with experts about and we are reflecting on it.”

Costello, 45, was a 20-year police veteran, while Burns, 43, had been an officer for two years.

Robichaud, 42, had begun dating Wright, 32, earlier this month.

Ten children lost a parent Friday morning – Burns was married with three children, while Costello was a father of four, and Robichaud had two teenage sons and an older daughter.

Matthew Vincent Raymond, 48, has been changed with four counts of first-degree murder and is set to appear in court on Aug. 27.

Raymond was shot by police on Friday and was still being treated in hospital for his injuries as of Saturday. Police have not disclosed the severity of his injuries.

Two investigators with Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team, a police watchdog agency, were dispatched to Fredericton on Friday to investigate police involvement in Raymond’s injuries.

Police did not say if the suspect and victims were known to each other and a motive was not yet known.

Both Robichaud and Raymond were residents of the complex, but lived in different buildings, according to the landlord.