This is part of my ongoing series on Canadian Mass Murders.
On June 4th, 2014, shortly after 7 p.m., Justin Bourque left his trailer dressed in camouflage, a bandana on his head, and two firearms strapped to his back. He walked toward an upscale subdivision a few blocks away.
Bourque ignored the civilians he encountered.
“Don’t worry, I’m not out to kill civilians. I’m after government officials,” Bourque told one resident.
His desired target?
Uniformed RCMP members.
Within 20 minutes of the first RCMP member’s arrival, Bourque murdered RCMP Constable Fabrice Gevaudan, RCMP Constable Dave Ross and RCMP Constable Douglas Larche.
He also wounded RCMP Constable Darlene Goguen and RCMP Constable Éric Dubois.
During those 20 minutes, Bourque went to great lengths to avoid shooting civilians. He even ignored plainclothes Constable Douglas Larche until Larche shot at him.
Over 970 RCMP personnel from across New Brunswick and Canada were involved in the massive manhunt and investigation. Transport Canada provided an aircraft with infrared detection ability that, in the end, determined Bourque’s exact location for the RCMP.
Justin Bourque’s 2014 killing spree in Moncton, New Brunswick, left three wives without their husbands, six children without their fathers and a community without three courageous RCMP constables willing to put themselves in harm’s way to protect others.
It left countless other family, friends, and community members traumatized and terrified.
Those are the basic facts but there is more to this story than one deranged person who hates cops.
Article Road Map
This is a lengthy article about complex case. To make it easier to navigate, I’ve broken it down into the following headings:
- Motive: Why Kill Cops?
- Bourque’s Descent Into Madness and Why Gun Owners are Hated
- Bourque’s Guilty Plea and Sentencing
- Independent Investigation and Report
- RCMP Guilty of Labour Code Violations for Inadequate Training
Motive: Why Kill Cops?
One theory is Bourque was angry at the RCMP for allegedly killing 30-year-old Daniel Levesque in 2013. This idea was presented online by friends of Bourque’s on Facebook, where Bourque wasn’t shy about his hatred for police.
An independent investigation by the Fredericton Police Force concluded stab wounds Levesque suffered before his final interaction with police were the cause of death, not the four bullet wounds he received from police.
(I’ve requested a copy of the report into the death of Daniel Levesque from the Fredericton Police. If the report says anything other than what I expect it to say (all four bullet wounds were non-fatal), I’ll update this section accordingly.)
Another theory presented by Bourque himself is he targeted uniformed RCMP members as part of his rebellion against Canada’s oppressive government.
When asked what he was thinking after he escaped into the woods, Bourque said he was proud of the fact he killed police officers.
“Well, honestly, I know this is going to sound really messed up, but I actually felt pretty accomplished. I know you probably thing that’s really sick but, um, you know, it’s just… when you see what’s happening through the centuries and we just compare what happened here, you know, it’s just … It’s sad they might have had a wife and kids, but every soldier has a wife and kids, right, and it’s all about who’s side you chose and they chose the wrong one.”
Defence counsel David M. Lutz described Justin Bourque this way in the Defendant’s Sentencing Brief:
As the psychological and psychiatric assessment and the pre-sentencing report indicate he is immature, socially inept and easily influenced by unfounded external factors. He is the “perfect storm,” in terms of social adaptability:
- homeschooled and thereby unable to interact appropriately with his peers;
- addicted to violent video games on the level of a pre-teen or young teenager;
- marijuana dependant; and
- a paranoid gun aficionado.
The evidence is that his dedication to the “right wing” gun culture and resulting beliefs caused him to raise his love of guns and their use to alienate him from his family, to say nothing about the rest of society.
To attribute “…hatred for authority and police;” to him characterizes the defendant’s motive to a higher thought process then he possessed on June 4th, 2014. It would be easy to write him off as a zealot but he is, as stated above, a social inept frustrated young man. He tragically progressed from violent video games to acting them out in real life. His belief that the RCMP officers were “soldiers” in the employ and propping-up of a corrupt government has no factual foundation and was the result defective thinking influenced by online routine.
Crown counsel Cameron Gunn saw Bourque’s motive quite differently.
“He targeted them not because of any animosity to them specifically, but for lust or greed or any of the normal things you might see in a murder sentencing. He targeted them specifically because of who they were, what they did, the badge they carried, the flash on their shoulders, and the uniform they wore.”
— Canadian Press, October 28, 2014
Bourque’s Descent Into Madness and Why Gun Owners are Hated
Justin Bourque’s descent into murderous madness is one reason why so many non-gun owning Canadians licenced gun owners.
From MacLean’s Magazine:
Only Justin Bourque knows for sure (and even he may not). But his downward spiral appears to have begun more than two years ago, as he grew increasingly fixated on faraway wars and the right to bear arms.
He talked to buddies about the looming apocalypse, and his desire to “live off the grid.” Some friends feared that Bourque, a regular pot smoker, had turned to much harder substances, fuelling his paranoia.
“Ask yourself, would you fight for the future of your children or grandchildren, or your family and friends sons and daughters?” he wrote on his Facebook page April 7, two months before the rampage. “The answer is: no you’re too stupid to know what to fight for, cause we’re already losing the silent war you don’t wanna believe is happening.”
Looming apocalypses and the right to bear arms are two of the alarm bells anti-gun advocates ring as loud as they can in their efforts to denigrate all firearm owners.
Because these two themes instill a visceral fear of gun owners in those who don’t know much about guns or Canada’s existing firearms control legislation.
Justin Bourque checked all the right boxes as far as these groups are concerned.
- He had no criminal record
- He applied for and was issued a firearms licence (which expired prior to his shooting spree)
- He legally purchased the guns and ammunition he used to murder three RCMP officers and injure two others.
Justin Bourque is the Poster-Boy for these anti-gun slogans:
- “Every legal gun owner is law-abiding… until they are not.”
- “Every gun is legal… until it is not.”
- “Because every gun owner is a potential criminal.”
In short, the Justin Bourques of the world, though exceedingly rare, are the reason so many gun control advocates insist all gun owners are nothing more than murderers-in-waiting.
What so many gun owners don’t see and can’t understand is this – when we talk about our right to own guns we reinforce the negative stereotypes these non-gun owners already have of us.
This doesn’t mean we must capitulate to every demand made by the uninformed and uneducated majority.
It does mean we must stop looking at these events through our own eyes and start looking at them through the eyes of those who we, by our mere existence, terrify.
We must start speaking in language those people can hear and understand.
I say this, not to make you, my fellow gun owner, angry, but to highlight the magnitude of the education process we have in front of us.
We want the same thing every non-gun owner wants:
- a safe community to raise our children
- knowledge we are safe in our homes when we go to bed at night
- police to disarm the people with evil intent
And, most importantly, we gun owners want – more than anything else in the world – for there to NEVER be another shooting like this again.
More than anything, that’s what Canadians who don’t own guns want too.
We have so much common ground. Our trouble is communication, understanding and methodology.
In a battle between our “right” to own a gun vs. their “right” not to pick up another dead body, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out who wins. Or who loses.
This is why we must change how we approach the topic of gun ownership and keeping everyone safe.
Bourque’s Guilty Plea and Sentencing
On August 8, 2014, Justin Bourque pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
Chief Justice David Smith sentenced him to three consecutive life sentences with out possibility of parole for 75 years for three first-degree murders, and an additional two life sentences to be served concurrently for the two attempted murder charges.
Justin Bourque will almost certainly die in prison.
Independent Investigation Report
Darryl Davies, a criminologist from Carleton University, was hired by the RCMP four years after four Mounties were killed by a gunman in Mayerthorpe, Alta.
His conclusions in the Mayerthorpe report, including the need for high-powered rifles and training for all RCMP members immediately, were ignored by the RCMP.
On June 30, 2014, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson appointed Assistant Commissioner Alphonse MacNeil (ret’d) to undertake an independent review of the circumstances surrounding the Moncton shootings.
Commissioner Paulson gave MacNeil 90 days to submit his report and identified 13 areas for which Paulson wanted a review and applicable recommendations.
On June 4, 2014, Assistant Commissioner Alphonse MacNeil (ret’d) submitted his Independent Review of the Moncton Shooting to RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson.
Key recommendations include:
- additional training on lethal force over-watch be provided to members
- a standard list of equipment be developed for ERT duties and that this equipment be acquired and distributed across the program
- Policy should be amended to state that where a general duty member is qualified in the use of a long barreled weapon and where one is available; the member must ensure the weapon is in the police vehicle while on duty
- Firearms must be stored with sufficient ammunition
- During high stress/high risk incidents a supervisor must clearly provide direction regarding equipment use
- training material be made available concerning the difference between cover and concealment, including examples of the penetrative capabilities of bullets from various firearms
- RCMP should develop an improved system to enable members to obtain ammunition for practice
- relevant policies and practices should be reviewed to ensure there are appropriate controls and no constraints that would interfere with members improving their firearms proficiency
The final two recommendations are arguably the most important.
- 13.1 It is recommended the RCMP take immediate action to expedite deployment of patrol carbines across the Force. This action must include significant and permanent augmentation of the Force’s training capacity.
- 13.2 It is recommended the RCMP conduct a thorough analysis of the approval and procurement processes (including the research and development phase) relating to equipment that impacts officer safety. This analysis should include identifying an appropriate senior authority to take responsibility for such projects, establishing appropriately resourced project teams and setting deadlines for delivery.
RCMP Guilty of Labour Code Violations for Inadequate Training
On September 29, 2017, Justice Leslie Jackson found the RCMP guilty of violating Canada’s Labour Code by failing to provide adequate training and gear necessary for members to deal with a wholly foreseeable scenario such as the Moncton Shootings.
In 2018, Justice Jackson fined the RCMP a total of $550,000, divided into the following amounts:
- For its labour code violations, the RCMP must pay a $100,000 fine
- The RCMP must make a $300,000 contribution to l’Université de Moncton for the creation of a memorial scholarship in the names of the deceased policemen
- The RCMP must pay $60,000 to an educational trust that will be divided equally between fallen officers’ six children
- $75,000 will go to the Association for Workplace Tragedy Family Support
- $15,000 will be paid to Valour Place Society, which offers military family support
Below are some highlights of Justice Jackson’s decision in R. v The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2017 NBPC 6.
 In my view the RCMP have failed to establish due diligence. Front-line officers were left exposed to potential grievous bodily harm and/or death while responding to active shooter events for years while the carbine rollout limped along, apparently on the assumption that as the likelihood of such an event was relatively rare, a timely implementation was not required.
 The RCMP position is that their officers who responded on June 4, 2014 had appropriate use of force equipment and training. I will deal with the training aspect later in these reasons; however it is clear to me that the use of force equipment available to those members on June 4, 2014 left them ill-prepared to engage an assailant armed with an automatic rifle.
Cst. White, who while in the Canadian Armed Forces, had been qualified in carbine use, encountered the shooter on Bromfield Avenue and testified that if a carbine were available to him he could have effectively engaged him but he knew that the shooter was out of range of his pistol. Lastly Cst. Dubois, who was actually shot while rescuing Cst. Benoit and who had a visual on the shooter but at a distance beyond the range of his pistol, testified that, based on a lifetime of experience with firearms as a hunter and his RCMP training, he could have engaged the shooter if he had a carbine. I accept as accurate their observations as to the adequacy of the firearms at their disposal in responding to this active shooter event, and reject the proposition that they were adequately armed to respond to an assailant armed with a long gun.
 Almost all members of RCMP management who testified at trial said that safety of their members was a priority of theirs. While they paid lip service to that ideal their actions, or in this case inactions, belie that concern.
 I therefore have concluded that the Defendant has not established that it acted with due diligence and find the Defendant guilty of Count One.
 Defence Counsel suggests that there is no evidence that anyone in the RCMP anticipated outdoor active shooter events; however such an event occurred at Spiritwood in 2006. I reject the notion that it was not reasonably foreseeable that RCMP members could face an active shooter in an outdoor environment. In fact it was actually foreseeable.
In other words, the RCMP didn’t learn anything from the Meyerthorpe tragedy that claimed the lives of four RCMP constables, just as Darryl Davies said.
First RCMP Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXp5BJTMWZU
Global Documentary Under Fire: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnHxsjc2h8Y