A MANHUNT for a gunman suspected of killing three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers and wounding two others was continuing last night, with the suspect spotted three times yesterday but eluding capture.
Heavily armed police patrolled Moncton in the search for 24-year-old Justin Bourque, a local man who was wearing military camouflage and carrying two rifles in a picture released by police on Twitter.
Officers said he was armed and dangerous and urged anyone with information on his whereabouts to come forward.
Constable Damien Theriault said police had responded to a call on Wednesday evening about an armed man in the north end of Moncton, which is in the east coast province of New Brunswick.
Three of the responding officers were killed and two sustained non-life-threatening injuries and were in stable condition.
Mr Theriault broke down in tears at a media briefing as he spoke of the deaths of his three colleagues.
“We are still actively looking for the shooter,” the policeman said. “He is believed to still be in the Pinehurst sub-division area of Moncton.
“We are urging people in that area to stay inside and lock their doors and for people to stay away from that area.”
Asked how he was dealing with his grief, Mr Theriault said he personally knew the officers. He broke down, unable to complete his sentence, and excused himself.
Police released a map of a large portion of the north-west section of the city of 69,000 people, including a heavily wooded area, where they warned people to remain inside with their doors locked.
They told people to expect roadblocks and traffic disruptions. Schools and government offices were closed and the city pulled its buses off the roads. Mail deliveries were also suspended.
Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper offered his condolences to the families, colleagues and friends of those affected by the shootings.
Daniel St Louis, a commercial photographer in Moncton, was among the first on the scene when he came across two police vehicles on different streets with blood visible inside.
One of the vehicles, a marked police cruiser, was surrounded by shattered glass. The other, an unmarked pick-up with its lights still on and the driver’s side door left open, had several bullet holes through its front windscreen.
Mr St Louis, 51, said: “I walked over and I saw two feet, facing the street, toes up. I realised, ‘Oh my God. There’s somebody down’. As I got close, I realised it was an officer, and this is not a good situation.”
He added: “Our quiet little city, what is going on here? How is this happening to us? It always happens to somebody else.”
Police had a number of roads in the city blocked and traffic was backed up on major routes across the city. Drivers were also asked to stay out of the area.
Moncton mayor George LeBlanc urged all residents to pay strict attention to the police warnings.
“It is a terrible tragedy,” he said. “We as a city must pull together as a family to support those who have suffered losses.”
Such violence is rare in Canada, particularly on the east coast. Mr Theriault said Moncton did not have a single homicide last year or this year, until yesterday’s incident. “We have been blessed until this point,” he said.
He added that other police officers from around the east coast were in Moncton assisting with the search.
The shootings brought back memories of when four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers were killed in the western province of Alberta in 2005 in the deadliest attack on Canadian police officers in 120 years. They had been investigating a farm in Mayerthrope, a hamlet in Alberta, when a man shot them. The gunman was killed.