Flags at the Brandon Police Service building were lowered to half mast yesterday to honour the slain Mounties in Moncton. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
The death of three RCMP officers gunned down in New Brunswick has sent a sombre wave across the country and memories of similar tragedies closer to home have risen to the surface.
Brandon Police Service Chief Ian Grant said the department is a little quieter than usual as members reflect on the reality of working in the line of duty while memories of similar incidents come flooding back.
"Anytime any police officer, especially in our country, this happens to them, it has an impact on all police officers," Grant said in a soft voice during an interview Thursday.
"It does impact us, regardless of what uniform anybody wears, we’re all out there trying to do the same job and keep the community safe, so when you see incidents like this occur, it probably brings back memories of other situations that have happened closer to home."
The last time a Manitoba officer died in the line of gunfire was in 2001, when RCMP Const. Dennis Strongquill was killed in Russell after he was trapped in his cruiser by suspects on a cross-Canada crime spree. He couldn’t escape the vehicle and was unable to fire back because of a pistol malfunction.
In 2002, Portage la Prairie RCMP Const. Mike Templeton, a former member of the BPS, survived a gunshot in the face while on duty in February.
"A lot of those kind of memories flood back," Grant said.
"Things are a little quieter than they normally are here, our folks are just reflecting on what happened and probably realizing the challenges and the dangers that we face have become more clear."
Carberry RCMP Cpl. Jarrid St-Pierre said gun violence is an inherent risk to the job and always top of the officers’ mind, but the Moncton tragedy makes it a reality for the public.
"Here, we continue on. We’re professionals, we still have a job to do here, so we’re hoping the situation comes to an acceptable resolution," he said.
Sgt. Kevin Loewen, president of the Brandon Police Association, said Moncton isn’t a community unlike Brandon and it comes as a stark reminder tragedy can hit any area.
"Unfortunately, these types of situations are becoming more and more of a regular occurrence," he said. "It does take someone’s breath away."
The flags in front of the police station are at half-mast and Loewen said the association will have one BPS member attend the funerals of the three fallen Moncton RCMP members when the time comes — a long-standing association tradition.
Since residents of Moncton were told on Wednesday evening to stay inside behind locked doors, Brandonite Linda Lawson, who has been housesitting in the city for the past two weeks, has remained inside.
The area she’s in isn’t in lockdown, but she said the city of about 70,000 people is a almost a ghost town.
"People are very concerned for the RCMP and the families," Lawson said, who is originally from the area. "Everyone knows people that are in the (lockdown) area.
"People are anxious to get this guy caught."
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 6, 2014