MONCTON, N.B. — When Nadege Bujold looks out her front window and onto her quiet residential street, she is still sometimes haunted by the memory of a dying RCMP officer slumping to the ground.
Bujold and her husband were on their back patio a year ago, enjoying a sultry June evening when the loud crackle of gunfire sounded out. At first, the pair thought little of it — perhaps a car backfired or kids set off fireworks.
But when neighbours began pouring onto the street, shouting that someone was shooting police, the 37-year-old raced inside and peered out her window. She soon saw a solitary figure walking calmly down the street, looking like “Rambo” and closing in on their home with a large gun.
At the end of a 70-second burst of gunfire, Bujold watched in horror as Const. Douglas Larche fell to the ground. Justin Bourque didn’t break stride as he continued his march down Mailhot Avenue and into the woods.
It was 8:07 p.m. last June 4 and Larche had become the last of three Mounties murdered by Bourque in a 20-minute span in Moncton, N.B.
For Bujold, the drama seemed to play out in slow motion and occasionally comes back in unflinching detail.
“That memory stayed there — you know, you can see him just pointing and shooting,” she says in a thick French accent.
“I had a hard time those first weeks. We would go outside and try to move on because we have to, but I couldn’t even turn my head and look that way … .
“It’s awful. It’s hard to move on.”
A year after he killed the officers and wounded two others, people in the neighbourhoods Bourque terrorized say they think less often of his carnage — the blood on the streets, the injured and dying men, and cars riddled with bullets.
But for some, those moments stubbornly return as surreal, nightmarish memories.
Millie Stewart was rushing out the door to see her husband in hospital as her sister sat waiting in the driveway. She turned her head slightly and encountered Bourque, who is now 25, as he crossed the street towards her home.
“He just felt so close,” she said. “He had the green army garb on and his rifle over his shoulder and he looked right into my eyes and said, ‘No, I’m not out to kill civilians, just government officials.’ “
Still, she remembers feeling he would shoot her in the back as she tried to walk away.
“He didn’t even have a frightening looking face, but the way he was dressed and his guns … I still thought he was going to kill whoever was in his sight.”
She didn’t see that Bourque simply walked on nor did she realize just moments earlier he’d lined up fatal shots at Const. Dave Ross as the officer sped towards him.
She recalls praying that night, calling on her Christian faith to help her find calm as helicopters flew overhead.
Since that day she’s had a heightened sense of the fragility of life.
“There’s a new level of awareness around the city of Moncton that it can happen anywhere,” she said. “It’s still very daunting.”
The ordeal began just after 7 p.m., when Bourque left his trailer at 13 Pioneer Ave. and walked down his potholed street with two knives, ammunition, a shotgun and a M-305 semi-automatic slung on his back.
He crossed into the wealthy suburb of Pinehurst and by 7:46 p.m. had shot Const. Fabrice Gevaudan twice on the grounds behind two large homes before cutting through woods to escape.
Firefighter Mike Fougere was called from a neighbourhood fire station to the garage of a home where Gevaudan had been carried by other RCMP officers.
He took his turn performing CPR, his exhaustion growing as he did compressions on the fallen officer’s chest over the next two hours and 20 minutes, hearing gunshots ring out and chaos unfolding just blocks away.
A year later, he says he believes his city has lost some of its innocence.
“Now if someone sees any kind of incident at all, people will call 911 without hesitation,” he said. “They aren’t as passive as in the past.”
Bourque advanced steadily down Mailhot Avenue, where Tim Daley and his friend Jason Vautour heard gunfire and climbed out of a pool where their families were gathered to celebrate the early days of summer.
They leaned over the fence and, coming face-to-face with a man in a camouflage jacket, asked him if they should go inside.
“Probably,” he told them.
Later they saw images of the killer circulating online and realized that it was him — that it had been Bourque on the other side of the fence who they had talked to. By that time, their children were hiding in the basement.
“Our lives could have ended. Our family’s lives could have ended,” Vautour said in an interview at Daley’s home.
A few metres away, photographer Daniel St. Louis had taken pictures of the bullet holes in Ross’s vehicle before seeing the officer’s body lying in a yard where he had been carried after he was shot.
Months later, he stood near the same spot and recalled phoning the 911 operator, who asked him to check on the officer’s wounds.
He winces a little, standing 20 metres from the spot, as the memory returns.
“I do feel my heart go back to what I was feeling then. A little sunken.”
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Michael Tutton and Alison Auld, The Canadian Press