Police in New Brunswick’s capital say two of their officers are among at least four people killed in a mass shooting Friday morning, a grim reminder of the dangers faced by law enforcement officers across the country.
Police Chief Leanne Fitch said victims include Const. Robb Costello and Const. Sarah Burns and two civilians – a man and a woman – who remain unidentified. One suspect is in custody, police said, and is being treated for serious injuries related to the shooting.
WATCH: Fredericton police confirm 2 officers killed
“At this dark time I can say that the citizens of Fredericton were being exceptionally well served,” Fitch said during a press conference. “I couldn’t be prouder of the men and women that serve this city.”
“Obviously this is incredibly difficult for our officers and for our community,” said Deputy Chief Martin Gaudet. “Nobody every wants to lose a colleague or a friend. Especially in this manner.”
While there a still few details about the shooting that has shaken the city of 58,000 people, the two fallen officers join a list of 865 police or peace officers killed while on duty since 1867, according to the Canadian Police Association (CPA).
The CPA, an organization representing 60,000 police personnel across Canada, has tracked all deaths of law enforcement officers, including peace officers and RCMP. The association tracks homicides and accidental deaths. The numbers can be difficult to track as historical cases often depend on families or agencies bringing forward the necessary information.
Michael Gendron, a CPA spokesperson, said the news out of New Brunswick is tragic.
“It’s heartbreaking news for all of us across Canada,” Gendron told Global News. “We send our prayers to our friends in Fredericton. It’s certainly a difficult situation and anything we can do to help them we are ready to provide.”
Gendron said the number highlights the danger that law enforcement officials face on a daily basis.
“There is no routine day in policing, but it’s a very stark reminder of what can happen at any given time,” he said.
WATCH: Resident describes ‘chaos’ as shooting unfolded
Friday’s shooting in Fredericton evoked memories of the deadly shooting rampage in Moncton, N.B., by a lone gunman who killed three RCMP officers in 2014. That tragedy was among the deadliest in the history of Canadian law enforcement followed by the March 3, 2005, shooting of four officers in Mayerthorpe, Alta.
Nir Maman, managing director with the Canadian Tactical Officers’ Association, said the Moncton shooting would immediately be on the mind of officers. Justin Bourque targeted police officers in a Moncton neighbourhood on June 4, 2014, killing RCMP Constables Doug Larche, Fabrice Gevaudan and Dave Ross.
“When you are responding to any type of call that involves firearms, especially where shots have been already been fired that is about the most nerve wracking and the most complex type of call,” Maman said.
Maman said when police arrive on scene with a gunman in an “open air environment,” like a neighbourhood, it creates a more deadly threat for law enforcement.
“When you’re reacting you’re always in the most inferior position,” he said. “You have no clue where the shooter is going to be and the shooter is not contained. Your environment turns into a full 360 potential threat environment.”
New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant called the shooting a “senseless tragedy” and offered his condolences to the family and friends of the victims.
“This tragic event reminds us of the lengths first responders regularly go to in responding to the needs of New Brunswickers,” Gallant said. “The incredible professionalism and commitment of our local first responders to serve and protect the people of Fredericton during difficult circumstances is to be commended. Thank you.”
WATCH: Fredericton resident ‘woke up to gunshots’
Residents of an apartment complex on Brookside Drive in the north end of the city described waking up Friday morning to the sounds of gunshots around 7 a.m.
“It sounded like the first one came from right outside my bedroom window … I was hoping for the two seconds that I was groggy that it was kids blowing off firecrackers,” David MacCoubrey told The Canadian Press.
The apartment complex has four buildings in a square, he said, and the shots sounded like they were coming from the middle of the complex.
Justin McLean, who lives in the Brookside Drive neighbourhood, described a horrifying scene of what appeared to be three bodies lying on the ground.
“I didn’t know what was going on until I looked out my back window and saw three bodies laying there,” he said. “It’s shocking. I don’t know what to think.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement about the shooting commending the bravery of first responders and the Canada is mourning with everyone who has lost a friend, colleague, or family member.
“There is no greater gesture than to put oneself in harm’s way to protect the life of another,” Trudeau said. “This morning, first responders rushed to the scene of danger. They did not think twice about what they had to do to keep their fellow Canadians safe. They were unflinching in their duty. We will not forget the two fallen police officers whose sacrifice no doubt saved lives and prevented even greater tragedy.”
Trudeau said he had spoken with the Premier, Fredericton Chief of Police Leanne Fitch and Mayor Mike O’Brien and that the RCMP is giving its full support to the Fredericton Police, who are leading the investigation into the tragedy.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says he’s “deeply concerned” about the shooting.
“With RCMP support, this developing situation is under investigation by Fredericton Police,” Goodale said via twitter. “Residents are encouraged to follow their direction. My thoughts are with the victims and their families at this difficult time.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also tweeted about the “very tragic” and “devastating” news.
— With files from Kam Razavi and the Canadian Press
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