Massive manhunt continues in Canada after gunman kills 3 officers

A gunman who shot and killed three on-duty police officers in Canada was still being sought by authorities Thursday more than 18 hours after the assault on the streets of a quiet residential neighborhood.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in Brussels to attend the G-7 Summit, called Wednesday’s attack a “stark reminder” of the risks taken every day by law enforcement officers. The shooting in the province of New Brunswick left two other officers wounded.

“Our thoughts are with their families and loved ones in their time of need. This is a sad time for the people of Moncton, the people of New Brunswick and for Canada,” Harper said in a statement.

The attack left many in Moncton, a city of 64,000, visibly shaken. The city was effectively paralyzed Thursday as the manhunt continued. Public schools, government offices and a university were closed, and the city’s public transit service was also halted until further notice.

At 5:40 a.m. local time, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police released a map of the search area in Moncton and warned residents within the zone to stay inside and lock doors as officers tracked the shooter, identified by police as Justin Bourque, 24.


Royal Canadian Mounted Police said via social media that the search was focused on the Pinehurst subdivision. At the same time, law enforcement officials urged residents not to post police movements on social media out of concern that the gunman might be monitoring such outlets.

The shooting shocked witnesses.

Vanessa Bernatchez, 19, captured dramatic video as she and her parents witnessed one officer being shot.

Bernatchez said that she was in her backyard on Mailpot Avenue with her mother and stepfather when a neighbor came running and yelling of a man outside with a gun.

“We heard three shots while we were running into the house,” Bernatchez told The Times.

She and her family ran to a front window to see a man dressed in camouflage clothing and makeup, wearing a protective vest and armed with two guns and ammunition around his shoulder, walking calmly toward a police officer.

“He was extremely calm. That’s the worst part,” she said. “He was just calm and cool and went off as if he’d do it every day.”

Bernatchez said her stepfather was banging on the window to warn the officer of the approaching gunman, “but we were too late. By the time he turned around he was shot and dead.”

She said the gunman fired on the officer from about 12 to 15 feet away. The shooter warned a man away who apparently left his car to help the wounded officer but did not point a gun or fire at the man, Bernatchez said.

“The shooter walked away from the scene as if nothing happened,” she said. “We didn’t see his mouth move whatsoever.”

SWAT team officers and police with dogs arrived quickly on the scene shortly after she called 911, Bernatchez said.

She described the neighborhood as extremely calm and friendly. “This is not something you’d ever imagine happening here,” she said.

It was not immediately clear what led to the shooting.

Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc told CBC-TV that he first learned of the attack from social media. He expressed deep sympathy for the families of the dead police officers.

“You hear about these things happening other places,” he said, urging residents to follow police instructions. “Moncton is such a warm and inviting community and it’s impossible to fathom.”

LeBlanc said he was confident the police would bring the manhunt to a successful end.

“I’m shocked and saddened to learn of tonight’s tragic situation in Moncton. I extend my thoughts and prayers to those affected,” New Brunswick Premier David Alward wrote on Twitter.

Killings are rare in Canada. In 2012, 543 homicides were reported in the nation of about 35 million residents. Just six of those took place in New Brunswick. In contrast, Los Angeles County, with about 10 million residents, had 660 homicides that year.

In 2005, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police suffered the worst loss in the history of the force when four officers were ambushed and killed at a farm in Mayerthorpe in northern Alberta.

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