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'It has been a very difficult day' — Fredericton police chief

Two slain police officers named; two others dead in shooting

Four people were killed early Friday morning in a shooting in a residential area of north-end Fredericton.

Two of the people who died were Fredericton police officers. A 48-year-old Fredericton man is in custody.

“This is the worst moment for any chief of police in any police agency, to have to deliver this news,” police Chief Leanne Fitch said at an afternoon news conference.

“It has been a very difficult day for our officers and residents of our fine city as we come to terms with the violent deaths of four of our people.”

Fitch identified the fallen police officers as Const. Robb Costello, 45, a 20-year veteran of the Fredericton force, and Const. Sara Burns, 43, who had been with the force for two years and was an auxiliary officer for two years before that.

Costello was from Sussex, N.B., and trained as a police officer at Holland College in Prince Edward Island. He leaves behind a common-law partner and four children. Burns is survived by her husband and three children.

Fitch sent along sympathies to “two families of the other victims who lost their lives.” She said police were not in a position to release their names at this time.

Const. Sara Burns and Const. Robb Costello have been identified as the Fredericton police officers killed in the line of duty Friday.

RELATED LINK: Fredericton residents shocked shooting happened in their hometown

Deputy Chief Martin Gaudet said police responded to reports of shots fired outside the apartment buildings in the 200 block of Brookside Drive at about 7:10 a.m.

Police found a man and a woman shot at the scene and set up a perimeter and a lockdown of the area, he said.

“Officers engaged with a suspect and shots were fired by police,” Gaudet said. He said police forced entry into an apartment at about 9:30 a.m. and arrested the suspect.

The suspect was taken to Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton, where he was being treated for serious injuries.

Police did not say if the four people killed had died inside the building.

The hospital tweeted at 11:06 a.m. that it was treating multiple victims of the shooting, but Gaudet did not confirm if anyone else had been shot at the scene.

The shootings occurred in the Nashwaaksis area of the city of 60,000, north of the downtown district and the St. John River that snakes through the middle of town.

Residents in the Brookside Drive area have said they heard shots fired at about 7 a.m. The shootings occurred in a block of four low-rise apartment buildings on Brookside behind the Tim Hortons outlet on Douglas Avenue, just south of Highway 105.

A 64-year-old woman who lives on Douglas Avenue said she woke up to sirens at 6:45 a.m. She didn’t think anything of it at first, but then she heard gunshots.

“And then gunfire was going off all the time,” said the woman, who didn't want to be identified. “It was like they were right in my parking lot.”

After ambulances, RCMP and an emergency response team truck came in, she said she knew it was an ongoing issue.

“My adrenalin was going like a bat out of hell. I was just absorbing the whole thing,” she said, noting her cat also knew something was wrong.

With her building under lockdown, she headed to her bedroom for a couple of hours, until it was over.

Marlene Donavan, 57, lives in a former family home that has been converted into an apartment building, next door to the site of the shooting.

“It shook me up very much,” Donavan said. “I deal with panic attacks so this wasn't a good thing, especially when I was still in bed and heard the gunshots go off.”

Donavan said she heard three shots at about 8 a.m.

“But it started before then,” she said.

Donavan said her sister, Sharon, lives upstairs and had heard gunshots about an hour earlier. Donavan said she had already received a call from her husband Jim, who had left earlier.

“He said the street was all blocked off with cops. He said, ‘Don't go out, there's something going on next door. Make sure the door is locked and don't go to the door, no matter who is at the door.

Donavan said police did not contact her but she heard from someone else by noon that the lockdown had been lifted.

“There was a big rumpus going on,” she said. “I guess I slept through it. I have an oxygen machine going and an air conditioner going. I slept through it.”

Donavan said she has lived in her apartment for nearly four years and the area is usually very peaceful. She's witnessed some parties in the building next door but nothing out of the ordinary.

“I'm still timid about going out,” she said at 3 p.m. “I recognize that they caught the person and he is in the hospital.

“I'll be staying here. It is a real shock but I'll get calmed down.”

David MacCoubrey, who lives on Brookside, told several media outlets that he awoke in his apartment at 7:07 a.m. to the sound of gunshots “10 metres from my bed.”

“It sounded like the first one came from right outside my bedroom window,” MacCoubrey said. “I was hoping for the two seconds that I was groggy that it was kids blowing off firecrackers.”

Three gunshots woke him up, he said, and two more were fired within the next three minutes. MacCoubrey said as many as 17 more shots rang out between that time and around 8:30 a.m.

The Tim Hortons outlet on Douglas Avenue and a nearby GoodLife Fitness gym were locked down after the shootings. Employees answering calls in both businesses said they were following company policies to sit tight and not comment to media.

Police advised in a tweet at 11:04 a.m. that there was no longer a threat to the public and lockdowns were no longer required.

Police had earlier told residents in the area to stay indoors, lock down their homes and not reveal their location or the location of police officers on social media.

Mayor Mike O'Brien extended sympathy to the families of the four dead.

“Protecting us today, they gave their lives,” O’Brien said of Costello and Burns. “It is our job as mayor, as Frederictonians, as neighbours, as colleagues, to now embrace them and their families and provide all the support that we can.

“Keep in mind the civilian victims. Our love and support goes out to everybody. In this community we grieve together but we'll heal together as well.”

Premier Brian Gallant said all New Brunswickers were saddened by the deaths.

“Thinking of all members of the Fredericton police force; know that all New Brunswickers and Canadians mourn with you,” Gallant said.

The premier sent out a special salute to all first responders, calling them a special breed of people who put themselves in harm’s way to keep others safe..

Gaudet said it was an incredibly difficult day for the police force and the entire community.

“No one ever wants to lose a colleague or friend, especially in this kind of situation,” Gaudet said. “Our police oficers have conducted themselves in a professional manner and will continue to do so through the investigation. The investigation is continuing to determine exactly what happened.”

Sympathies poured in from other police forces in Atlantic Canada and across the country. At Halifax police headquarters, the flag flew at half-mast.

The investigation has been turned over to the RCMP. A Friday evening prayer vigil was planned for St. John the Evangelist Church in Fredericton.

The shooting brought back memories of a multiple shooting in Moncton on June 4, 2014, in which five RCMP officers were shot. Three officers were killed.

A 28-hour manhunt ensued and Justin Bourque, 24, of Moncton, was arrested June 6.

Bourque later pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and to two charges of attempted murder. He was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences, with no possibility of parole for 75 years.

A judge later found that the force failed to provide adequate equipment and training to the officers who responded to the shootings. The RCMP was fined $100,000 and ordered to donate $450,000 to educational programs, scholarships and other organizations.

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