RCMP family stands together in face of tragedy
When Const. David Henry heard about last Wednesday’s shootings in Moncton, N.B. that felled three RCMP officers, it brought him right back to last month.
“Because we went through that, it just brings it to life how close we came,” he said of the May 9 downtown shootout between St. Paul RCMP members and the now-deceased shooter, John Quadros.
Last Friday evening, RCMP members and their families, along with supporters from the community, gathered at the St. Paul detachment to honour Constables Dave Ross, 32, Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, and Douglas James Larche, 40. The three members were gunned down by suspect Justin Bourque, sparking a 30-hour manhunt and lockdown of the city of Moncton. Bourque was eventually apprehended, while across Canada, people mourned the loss of three officers who gave their lives in upholding their duties.
At the gathering, Henry said he knew the feelings of grief and loss that RCMP members and their families face in the wake of such tragedy, and that it takes time to adjust to the new norms in life.
Colleen Hughes, who is married to a local RCMP member, said she wanted to do something in memory of the fallen members in leaving flowers by the flagpole of the local detachment, and reached out to her friends within the RCMP circle to join her. From there, the event extended to members of the public, who came to stand alongside the men, women and children from RCMP families that listened as Hughes read a poem under the flags flying at half-mast.
“I don’t know them, I’ve never met them…but I‘m a strong believer in the RCMP,” she said of the fallen members. Hughes said she has high respect for the men and women who put their life in danger every day and still come to work ready to serve and with a smile on their face.
She too felt the chilling sense of closeness between last Wednesday’s shooting in New Brunswick and the events in St. Paul.
“That could be my husband, that could be any husband. That was us last month.”
She and her family recently suffered a personal loss as well, and when she heard news of the New Brunswick shooting, she said it felt as though “the world is falling down around you.” She drew strength from reading the Bible, particularly in reading the words that “God is our refuge and strength.”
Leah Breckenridge, a fellow wife of an RCMP member, adds that arranging the gathering was meant to give people a way to express their grief and also show their support for the police. “There’s nothing we can do, but show our appreciation in some way.”
Henry said he was touched to see people from outside the policing community come out on Friday evening, as a sign that they appreciate the work he and his colleagues do.
“We support each other, but we support the community too,” he said. After the May 9 shooting, he saw an outpouring of “incredible support” from the people of St. Paul, grounding in the wake of the shifting world and life RCMP members face.
“It made me feel like part of the community, and I’ve only been here a year,” he said.
“This is our home now.”