MONCTON, New Brunswick (AP) — Three police officers were shot dead and two others injured Wednesday in a rare case of gun violence in the east coast Canadian province of New Brunswick, officials said. Authorities were searching for a suspect.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in New Brunswick confirmed on its Twitter feed that three officers were dead and two others had sustained non-life threatening injuries. Police spokesman Paul Greene confirmed the deaths.
The RCMP said on Twitter that they were looking for 24-year-old Justin Bourque of Moncton. The police force tweeted an image of a suspect wearing military camouflage and wielding two guns.
Danny Leblanc, 42, said he saw the shooter in the distance Wednesday evening, wearing a camouflage outfit and standing in the middle of the street with his gun pointed at police cars.
The construction worker said he believed it was an RCMP officer he was looking at until he heard a burst of automatic gunfire coming from the man’s gun.
He said he quickly retreated into his home and remained there with his family. At one point a neighbor posted on social media that their kitchen window was shattered by gunfire.
Leblanc said few people on his normally quiet street were sleeping as they awaited word at midnight on whether arrests had been made.
Word that police had been killed shocked the city, Leblanc said.
“It’s devastating. I don’t know if he was on a hunt for them, or what,” he said.
Police said Wednesday night they believed the suspect was at large in a Moncton subdivision. Police had a number of roads in the city blocked and traffic was backed up on major arteries 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 RCMP warnings.
“The police and other emergency personnel are working under extremely difficult conditions and need our complete cooperation. Stay home, stay safe. If you cannot get home, seek out a friend or family and remain there until you are advised otherwise,” LeBlanc said in a statement.
Such violence is rare in Canada, particularly on Canada’s East Coast.
Four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers were shot and killed in the western Canadian 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 small hamlet in Alberta when a man shot them before he was killed.
The Horizon Health Network, a provincial health authority, said on its Twitter feed that two patients were taken to Moncton Hospital with gunshot wounds.
Theriault said earlier the search for the suspect was concentrated around two streets.
Sean Gallacher, who lives near the area where police were concentrating their search, said he heard what he now believes were gunshots but initially thought his daughter had dropped some toys on the floor above him.
“I was downstairs and heard a few bangs,” said Gallacher, 35.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney tweeted that he was “shocked by the tragedy” and that his thoughts and prayers were with frontline RCMP officers.
Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.