Four people, including two police officers, were killed in a shooting in the eastern Canadian city of Fredericton, the latest in an eruption of gun violence that has prompted calls for weapons bans.
Police said they received reports of shots being fired in the north end of the city just after 7am on Friday. Two officers arrived on the scene soon after and found two victims, an adult male and female, lying on the ground.
“When they approached the victims, they were shot at as well,” said Martin Gaudet of the Fredericton police.
The two officers were identified by police as Lawrence Robert Costello, 45, a 20-year veteran of the force and father of four, and Sara Mae Burns, 43, who had been with the force for two years after serving as an auxiliary officer and was a mother of three children.
“This is the worst moment for any chief of police in any police agency to have to deliver this news,” said Leanne Fitch, Fredericton’s police chief.
Police offered few other details regarding the shooting; declining to name the two civilians killed or specify whether any others had been injured. A regional hospital said it was treating multiple people as a result of the shooting.
Police said officers fired at this suspect before entering an apartment and making an arrest.
A 48-year-old man from Fredericton was taken into custody on Friday morning and is being treated for serious injuries stemming from the incident, they added. Police declined to name the suspect or detail whether he was known to police.
The shooting has rocked the city of 58,000 people, where residents woke up to news of a police lockdown, warned to avoid the area and stay in their homes.
Police also asked social media users to refrain from giving details online of the the position or activities of police or first responders.
A resident, David MacCoubrey, told the Canadian Press he was woken at 7am by three gunshots, which sounded as if they were fired 10 metres from his bed. Over the next 90 minutes or so, he heard more than 15 other gunshots.
The gunfire appeared to be coming from the middle of his apartment complex, which consisted of four buildings in the shape of a square, he said.
The complex has seen fights unfold from time to time but never anything like this, resident Justin Mclean told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “I just woke up and heard gunshots and I looked outside my window,” he said. “There was basically three dead people laying there. It wasn’t a pretty sight.”
The shooting plunged the nation into shock, Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, said in a statement. “We mourn with everyone who has lost a friend, colleague, or family member, and wish those injured a speedy and full recovery.”
He joined the many paying tribute to the fallen police officers. “They did not think twice about what they had to do to keep their fellow Canadians safe. They were unflinching in their duty,” Trudeau said. “We will not forget the two fallen police officers whose sacrifice no doubt saved lives and prevented even greater tragedy.”
Outside the Fredericton police station, residents left flowers and messages of support for the close-knit police force as they reeled from the loss of two of their colleagues.
“Our hearts are broken by the murder of our two brave police officers,” Mike O’Brien, Fredericton’s mayor, said in a tweet.
“As mayor, this is something I never wanted to live through,” he later told reporters. “In this community we grieve together, but we’ll heal together as well.”
The incident brought back memories of 2014, when three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers were killed and two others wounded in a mass shooting in Moncton, New Brunswick.
While gun laws in Canada are far more strict than in neighbouring United States, a a proliferation of weapons has left Canada wrestling with a string of violent incidents in recent years.
Most recently a gunman opened fire on a busy Toronto street last month, killing two people and wounding 13 others before turning his weapon on himself.
Toronto, Canada’s largest city, has had 241 shooting incidents so far this year, resulting in 30 deaths, a 30% increase in fatalities over the same period as last year.
Bill Blair, the federal minister tasked with tackling gun violence, said officials are considering giving provinces the power to designate gun-free cities.
“It’s possible that we could work with the provinces and territories and allow them the authority to designate certain municipalities as places where guns could not be purchased or possessed,” Blair told Reuters.