Kelowna mourners filed into the pews at Trinity Baptist church Tuesday to pay homage to the three Mounties shot dead last week in the line of duty.
Sitting shoulder to shoulder members of the public blanketed the church in red, offering a sartorial salute to the national police force who were gathering to honour constables Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, Douglas James Larche and Dave Joseph Rossi.
When Pastor Tim Schroeder opened the Tuesday morning memorial before the national funeral was live-streamed on to two large screens, he noted that kind of support is exactly what the RCMP need now.
“We welcome you and we thank you for being here,” he said. “It really matters…The events of this week have demonstrated how vitally important it is that we support (the RCMP) in every way possible.”
Last week, in Moncton, that support materialized with the simple gesture of residents leaving on a back porch lights as Mounties fanned out in search of a gunman.
Or, more often, it appears with the regular show of deference and respect.
“To those of us in the religious community it includes praying regularly for your safety,” he said, shifting his words to the RCMP members gathered.
“We need you, and we appreciate you more than we typically show. The tragedy of last week has shown one more time that if we as a community don’t take care of you, the safety and the peace of our community and in fact, our whole nation, is at stake.”
Supt. Nick Romanchuk pointed out that two Kelowna officers were troop members with two of the fallen officers, and their loss was felt across the detachment.
Also, he noted that there were too many parallels to another incident not far enough in his past.
“I remember vividly standing in front of a crowd like this in 2005 in Trail when we lost our four members in Mayerthorpe,” he said.
“I hoped at that time I would never have to go back and stand in front of a group like this, but in just over nine years, I find myself before you again, under alarmingly similar circumstances. Certainly it’s something that I never wanted to have to do.”
Bringing comfort, however, has been the support of the public, which Romanchuk said was “overwhelming.”
Flowers lined the foot of the podium from where he was speaking, and Romanchuk said they were brought in from a local dance troupe.
“The young dancers decided they’d like to donate the left-over flowers to our members to show support in the wake of the tragedy we’ve all experienced,” he said.
And, he stressed, it really is a loss that they’re all experiencing.
“It’s difficult to understand to those not involved in policing, but policing is really a family. It’s a brotherhood and a family. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, Douglas James Larche and Dave Joseph Ross, you will always be a part of the RCMP family, and we will always remember you.”
Gevaudan, Larche and Ross were gunned down last Wednesday evening after responding to a report of a man with firearms in a residential neighbourhood in the northwest area of Moncton.
In addition to the fatalities, Constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen, were wounded and have been released from hospital.
The shootings and the ensuing 30-hour manhunt for the alleged killer brought the city to a standstill until an arrest was made just after midnight Friday.