A city in Canada’s easternmost New Brunswick province remained on lockdown Thursday as police hunted for a man believed to have shot dead three officers and wounded two others in a brazen attack.
Residents of Moncton, a city of 70,000 people, were told to remain in their homes behind locked doors as police searched for the alleged shooter, 24-year-old Justin Bourque, who was described as armed and dangerous.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said the suspect had been spotted three times since daybreak, moving “in and out of a wooded area” they had staked out.
“The RCMP family is hurting,” regional commander Roger Brown said, describing his officers “working through (their) worst nightmare.”
Police released a photo of Bourque dressed in military fatigues and carrying two “high-powered” firearms.
The suspect used those rifles when he confronted police on a street in Moncton on Wednesday evening, killing three officers and wounding two.
He was also reportedly armed with knives and a crossbow, according to witnesses.
The shooting shocked many, as Canada prides itself on being largely free of the gun violence that regularly plagues cities in the neighboring United States.
– Lockdown –
“Stay home, stay safe. If you cannot get home, seek out a friend or family and remain there until you are advised otherwise,” Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc said.
Police told residents to barricade their doors as they combed a wooded, northeast neighborhood of Moncton with dogs, armored vehicles and aircraft equipped with infrared cameras.
“If you live in the marked area stay inside/lock doors. Roads blocked. Traffic disrupted. Avoid area,” the RCMP tweeted.
Schools as well as some businesses, shops and public services were to stay shut as the manhunt dragged on. Streets were largely deserted, according to local television footage.
The wounded cops were in stable condition, said surgeon Dhany Charest.
Initially, a third person was reported wounded but it later turned out that was in an unrelated incident.
On what appears to be his Facebook page, Bourque posted extracts from a song by American heavy metal band Megadeth just before the shooting.
He took letters from the refrain of the song and spelled out the letters of the word freedom and ultimately wrote, “this spells out FREEDOM, it means nothing to me.”
He also wrote about his love of guns and loathing of law enforcement officials, who said he had no previous run-ins with police.
Others have since posted on the page, condemning his actions and urging the suspect to surrender to police.
The exact circumstances of the shooting were not clear. Local media said the shooter opened fire in cold blood in a residential area of the city.
“This is a sad time for the people of Moncton, the people of New Brunswick and for Canada,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as condolences and messages of support to the RCMP poured in.
“On behalf of all New Brunswickers, I would like to extend my thoughts and prayers to those affected,” provincial premier David Alward said.