MONCTON, N.B. – Police and members of the public filled a hockey arena in Moncton on Tuesday for the regimental funeral of three New Brunswick Mounties killed in the line of duty.
RCMP pallbearers carried the flag-draped coffins of the slain officers – constables Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, Douglas James Larche and Dave Joseph Ross – into the Moncton Coliseum.
A beige RCMP Stetson was placed atop each casket at the front of the service. Danny, a police dog that served with Ross, was led inside.
Cpl. Chantal Farrah, who served as the master of ceremonies, said the Mounties’ deaths are a profound loss.
“Make no mistake, we are also here to celebrate lives of service that have contributed to the fabric of this community, this province and our great country of Canada,” Farrah said.
Before the funeral service began, people inside the arena stood and applauded for 45 minutes as police officers from across Canada and the United States arrived to take their places.
In front of a stage were three large portraits of the officers in their dress uniforms.
There were also three Canadian flags on the left and right sides of the stage.
Prior to the service, a procession of about 2,700 police officers wound its way through the city with pipers and drummers leading the mourners.
Four RCMP officers on horseback followed the 1.6-kilometre-long procession, leading three hearses carrying the dead officers.
Members of the RCMP and municipal police forces, as well as correctional officers and U.S. border patrol officers, were among those who marched to the Moncton Coliseum, which can hold about 7,000 people.
Cst. Larche’s older brother delivered the first of the eulogies.
“I stand here before you with an unbearable sadness, disbelief, rage, because a great man was taken away from us far too soon,” he told mourners inside the Moncton Coliseum. “Never in my worst nightmare did I envision a stitch in time that I would be giving his eulogy.”
Daniel Larche choked up as he said that he would give anything to have his brother back one more time, so he could tell him how much he loved him.
He urged police officers crowded into the Moncton Coliseum to mourn Larche and Constables Fabrice Gevaudan and Dave Ross to keep looking after each other and after the people they serve.
Ross’s brother-in-law, Adrian Vander Ploeg, recalled how the RCMP officer was in the midst of making dinner but dropped everything, including leaving the barbecue lid up and the garage door open, to be one of the first to respond to a report of a gunman last Wednesday evening.
“For those closest to Dave, that barbecue left still open says everything about who Dave was and his devotion to those around him,” Vander Ploeg said.
Gevaudan was remembered by Geoffrey McLatchie, his spiritual adviser, as a doting husband and stepfather.
“Fabrice lived a heart-centred life, a life of joy and happiness, a life where he connected to the community in which he lived,” McLatchie said.
“He was very comfortable in his own skin and he was his own man.”
Public transit buses picked up officers in advance of the televised service.
Brenda Jaillet of Oromocto, N.B., said the shooting deaths have touched her husband, a retired RCMP officer.
“It’s a brotherhood,” Jaillet said outside the coliseum before the service. “What has affected these three members has affected him. It could have been him at any time during his career.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Gov.-Gen. David Johnston were among the mourners.
Speaking at their regimental funeral this afternoon, Harper told mourners the families of the fallen men are in the prayers of Canadians as everyone struggles for answers.
So many people were expected that six other sites in Moncton and four more outside the city were set up where mourners can gather. A public visitation service held Monday drew hundreds of people.
Gevaudan, Larche and Ross were gunned down Wednesday evening after responding to a report of a man with firearms in a residential neighbourhood in the northwest area of Moncton.
Two other officers – constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen – were wounded and released from hospital.
The shootings and the ensuing 30-hour manhunt for the alleged killer brought the city of 69,000 to a standstill until an arrest was made just after midnight Friday.
Gevaudan, 45, originally of the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt, was remembered in his obituary as an advocate of women’s rights who adored his wife and “Twin Flame” Angela, and stepdaughter Emma.
The obituary for Larche, 40, of Saint John, N.B., says he died while working as a plainclothes officer who “without fear or hesitation ran towards danger to protect his community and family.” He leaves behind his wife Nadine and three daughters, Alexa, Laura and Mia.
Ross’s obituary says the 32-year-old dog handler died doing what he loved. He is survived by his wife Rachael and son Austin, with another child expected in the fall.
Justin Bourque, 24, of Moncton is facing three charges of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. He is scheduled to be in provincial court July 3.
Canadians were encouraged to wear red in support of the fallen officers.
Created by other spouses of RCMP officers, the Facebook event encourages people to “wear red on Tuesday to show that the fallen, wounded, their families, and all members of the RCMP are in our hearts.”
As of Tuesday morning, over 74,900 people signed up to participate.
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