MONCTON, New Brunswick, (Reuters) – Canadian police mounted a massive hunt yesterday for a 24-year-old man armed with high-powered weapons who they suspect shot dead three police officers and wounded two more in the eastern city of Moncton. The incident was one of the worst of its kind in Canada, where gun laws are stricter than in the United States and fatal attacks on police are rare.
Hundreds of police, some in armored vehicles and some with dogs, cordoned off a large area in the city’s northwest and warned residents to stay inside their homes and lock their doors. At one point officers surrounded a house but later left without making an arrest.
Schools and government offices were shut in Moncton, a city of 70,000 in the East Coast province of New Brunswick.
Police told residents not to tweet the locations of officers for fear they could be helping the suspect, who they named as Justin Bourque. He has no previous criminal record.
Police said Bourque had been spotted three times in Moncton since the Wednesday shootings, most recently just after dawn yesterday.
“Our search for the suspect is still ongoing,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) spokeswoman Chantal Ferrer told a news conference in Moncton at 3.45 p.m. EDT (1945 GMT).
Northwest Moncton was largely deserted. Some residents took no chances and fled as soon as they heard about the shootings.
“We left last night but in such a hurry that we left our patio door unlocked and our windows open. So we came back in the morning to lock up and checked inside of the house. I have a fear I have never had before,” said Dan Parlee, 33.
Police were alerted on Wednesday afternoon by a member of the public who spotted an armed man in camouflage clothing walking down a residential street. When police arrived, the man moved into a nearby wooded area and opened fire.
Three officers were killed and two more were taken to hospital, where both had surgery on Thursday. One of the two was later released.
The killings spurred an outpouring of grief on social media.
“This is like working through your worst nightmare,” said Roger Brown, commander of the RCMP in New Brunswick.