UPDATE: Burnaby RCMP reel at news of officers killed in Moncton
The flags at the Burnaby RCMP detachment were flying at half mast Thursday as officers reeled at the news that three RCMP officers were shot and killed a day earlier in Moncton, NB.
The suspected gunman, identified by RCMP as 24-year-old Justin Bourque, is alleged to have also wounded two other officers. He was arrested by police Thursday night after a lengthy manhunt.
On Thursday morning at about 7 a.m. a short memorial and flag-lowering was held in front of the Burnaby detachment with about 55 officers and civilian staff in attendance, said Staff Sgt. Major John Buis.
"Our hearts and our prayers go out to the families and friends on this terrible day," said Buis in an interview.
When he first heard the news he felt "like somebody had punched me in the stomach, a really numb feeling."
On Friday morning, New Brunswick RCMP identified the officers killed as Const. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, Const. David Joseph Ross, 32, and Const. Douglas James Larche, 40.
"There's lots of familial connections with all sorts of people," he said of the RCMP. "It's a very big family with lots of brothers and sisters."
Buis said it was difficult news to hear.
"It's really tough. I remember with Mayerthorpe, it was awful," he said, referring to the 2005 incident in Alberta when four RCMP officers were killed in an ambush. "For days, wandering around wondering what's going on. We didn't know what had happened and they were still looking for people that may or may not have been involved."
And there have been other police tragedies. Buis cites the 1961 deaths of three officers at the hands of a gunman in Kamloops, and the 1958 deaths of five officers in a boating accident on Lake Simcoe.
"Your mind goes back to those kinds of things. I lost two troop mates … So all those memories start coming back of good friends that you've lost."
All police officers know the risks of their jobs. "We know that. We know there's danger in our jobs but we're there to protect all Canadians," Buis said.
"It's a terrible time when you have just one [officer killed], but with three it becomes even more difficult. And it really hit home to me," he said, noting, "My son's in the RCMP."
People wanting to offer their condolences on the loss of the Moncton officers can send them to: Condolences_Condoleances@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.