OTTAWA, Ontario – The police arrested a gunman who they believe killed three police officers and wounded two others, capturing the man after a Canadian city was held under a virtual siege.
The arrest of Justin Bourque, which the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced through Twitter, occurred early Friday in Moncton, New Brunswick, apparently without incident.
The arrest came after three members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were fatally shot Wednesday in what many witnesses characterized as an ambush after they responded to an emergency call about a man seen wearing military-style camouflage clothing and carrying two rifles near the woods adjacent to a subdivision.
For a city of 69,000 where serious crime does not usually get much worse than, say, a burglary or an assault, the shooting was particularly shocking.
In 2012, the most recent year for which records were available, Moncton had no murders, and there were just six homicides in all of New Brunswick, according to Statistics Canada, a government agency.
“Never in my darkest dreams did I ever think that we would be facing what we’re facing today in Moncton,’’ Mayor George LeBlanc told reporters Thursday. “If this can happen in Moncton, it can happen anywhere.’’
The arrest of Bourque, 24, of Moncton, brought a return to normalcy for the city. As the police hunted for him, schools and most stores were closed, offices remained shut, buses were taken off the generally deserted streets, and mail delivery was suspended. In the neighborhood where the shooting occurred Wednesday evening, fearful residents, following police orders, remained in their homes.
Mounties from other regions and members of other police forces, backed by helicopters, black armored vehicles and aircraft, streamed into Moncton to join the hunt.
The police released a photograph taken Wednesday evening that showed a man they said was Bourque carrying two rifles, or possibly a rifle and a shotgun, in the northwest part of the city. The authorities did not say how they identified him.
Few details about the arrest were immediately released. Michelle Thibodeau told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that Bourque was arrested in the backyard of her parents’ home. Just before her family went to the basement, on police orders, Thibodeau said, they heard Bourque say, “I’m done.’’
The police said Bourque had no known criminal history. News reports said he had once worked for Wal-Mart. But other details remained scarce Friday. A Facebook account apparently belonging to Bourque contained some postings expressing anti-police sentiments, and others condemning gun laws.
There were also several images of guns. A rambling poem posted shortly before the shootings concludes: “I believe my kingdom will come.’’
Before the arrest, Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown, the commander of the mounted police in New Brunswick, told a news conference that Bourque had been seen three times since the killings, most recently near a Costco store Thursday morning. But he said the need to protect police officers and the public thwarted attempts to apprehend him.
Like many top Mountie officials during media appearances since the shooting, Brown appeared on the verge of tears. Although the vast force extends across the country and its units can be involved in wide-ranging investigations, Mounties also perform local police duties in places like Moncton.
Residents in the part of the city that had been locked down by the police were, for the most part, sheltered in basements. The CBC showed a photograph of young children who were placed in an empty bathtub in a windowless room for added protection.
Conrad Gagnon, 53, said by telephone late Thursday afternoon that the gunman had passed his house shortly before he heard gunshots on Wednesday.
“He looked like he was meditating or something or like he was stoned,’’ Gagnon said.
He said the gunman ignored a large number of people, including children, on the street and in a park.
Throughout Thursday, hopes were raised that Bourque had been cornered when heavily armed police surrounded a home, and later a commercial building. Both proved to be false leads. Few details about the arrest were immediately released although several Canadian broadcasters said that it occurred in a park.
The police still have not identified the three dead officers. One of the two wounded officers was released from a hospital Thursday; the other underwent surgery for wounds that were described as not life-threatening.
© 2014 New York Times News Service