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Fredericton police officers remembered for commitment to duty


Thousands line the route in the rain to pay their respects for two officers killed in Aug. 10 shooting

FREERICTON, N.B. – To serve and protect is the police officer’s mantra.

Such service comes at a high price, when officers are forced to lay their lives on the line.

Two Fredericton police officers were remembered Saturday during a regimental funeral for their sense of duty, honour and commitment to the community.

Const. Robb Costello and Const. Sara Burns were memorialized during a service attended by law enforcement representatives from across the country.

Greg Morris, a friend of Costello’s, said the officer’s death didn’t make him a hero.

“He was a hero as he lived. He loved being a cop,” Morris said. “We heard it so many times. It’s all he ever wanted to be. Being a police officer was not what Robb did, it was who he was, and he died doing what he lived and what he loved.”

Delivering the eulogy for his wife, Steven Burns said she was “the most beautiful and caring woman” he had ever met. Her biggest fear was leaving their children while attending the Atlantic Police Academy; her proudest moment was being sworn in as a Fredericton police officer in March 2016.

Burns said his wife would want her fellow police officers to know they did everything they could to save her.

“I’ve heard the word guilt so much this last week, but I want you to know Sara is at peace and knows you did everything you could to protect her,” he said. “Don’t burden yourself with the why, because you won’t find the answer. When it’s your time, it’s your time and never, never lay blame.”

The officers were fatally shot while responding to a report of gunfire in a north-end Fredericton neighbourhood Aug. 10. Two civilians also died.

"A lot of touching moments, it touches your heart," said Phillip Ross soon after exiting the Aitken Centre of the University of New Brunswick, the venue for the service.

Ross, of Cape Breton Regional Police, was a classmate of Costello at the Atlantic Police Academy. He said the ceremony was well planned and very fitting.

"There’s solidarity no matter where you’re from, Canadian… American… everybody comes together to show their support."

Ross said everybody is conscious of what can happen. They train for every type of scenario but, unfortunately, things like this do occur.
"It’s a tragic set of circumstances," he said.

The risks associated with the job are not lost on those who serve and protect, said Amherst’s acting chief Dwayne Pike.

"When you see the families and you see the members and how it affects the community as a whole, that’s one of those things that really hits you," said Pike. "Being police officers, it’s hard to deal with. It can happen anywhere."
Pike said police officers have a close-knit sense of community.

"We all know members from Fredericton and Saint John. You see members you went to the academy with, you’ve been in course with, you’ve worked with in different situations… you see the heartbreak and you share it. Four people lost their lives for something so senseless, and now you have a community devastated by that."
Pike said ‘quit’ is not part of the police vocabulary.

"As Fredericton's chief said, you have to move forward; you have to use what you get from the community, your members and family, and the people around you. That’s the lesson here, no matter what happens, you can’t quit, you have to move forward."

Fredericton police chief Leanne Fitch said during the ceremony her department is in mourning, but it continues to serve. Her voice fraught with emotion and cracking as she held back tears, Fitch said this is not a time of anger or bitterness, but a time to become better at the job.

“Your Sara and your Robb were our Sara and our Robb, too,” Fitch said. “They will live forever in your hearts and ours. They gave their lives selflessly as heroes. They went bravely into harm’s way in order to protect others and they served their very best to their last breath.”

New Brunswick Lieut.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau said the officers will never be forgotten.

“We will remember Sara and Robb today and every day. I promise,” she said. “We will recall their service to duty, to this city and its citizens.”

Thousands lined the procession route several blocks from Fredericton High School to the Aitken Centre at UNB to show their respect and to honour the fallen officers. A heavy rain in the morning lessened as the procession began.

“I have a cousin who is an RCMP officer, so the police are very important to me,” Fredericton resident Venus Cote said as she waited along the route of the procession. “It’s so sad.”

Lisa Norrad said she had to come pay respects to the fallen officers.

“I brought my boys to show them that we all stick together,” Norrad said.

The scene was quiet. People were talking among themselves, but in hushed tones. Some could be seen trying to hold back tears where more than a few were more open with their grieving.

Also killed during the Aug. 10 shooting were civilians Donnie Robichaud, 42, and his girlfriend, 32-year-old Bobbie Lee Wright. A 48-year-old man, Matthew Vincent Raymond, was taken into custody soon after the shooting and is charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

He will appear in court Aug. 27.

darrell.cole@amherstnews.ca dave.mathieson@amherstnews.ca

Twitter: @ADNdarrell; @ADNdave

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