The shootings in Nova Scotia that left an RCMP officer and 16 other people dead on the weekend have churned up traumatic memories of shootings in New Brunswick in recent years, especially among law enforcement officers.
“If I said, you know, I was able yesterday to click my heels and move on with my day I’d be lying,” said Roger Brown, chief of the police force in Fredericton, where two police officers were slain in 2018 along with two civilians.
“Yesterday was a long day. It wasn’t easy.”
An RCMP officer and 15 other people were killed in a shooting spree Saturday night and Sunday in northern Nova Scotia. The shooter was eventually shot to death in Enfield, N.S.
Brown was the RCMP’s commanding officer in New Brunswick in 2014, when a gunman’s rampage in a Moncton neighbourhood left three Mounties dead.
The mass shooting in Nova Scotia, one of the deadliest in Canadian history, brought back strong emotions from those earlier shootings in New Brunswick, Brown told Information Morning Fredericton on Monday.
RCMP said the Nova Scotia shooter was dressed in what appeared to be a police uniform and driving a car that had been made to look like an RCMP cruiser, although he had never worked for the force.
Throughout the weekend, Brown was concerned for the safety of all involved, but his concern was also personal since his son is an RCMP officer in Nova Scotia.
“It’s worrisome as a parent but at that point in time you know it’s almost all hands on deck, and everybody just does what they need to do,” said Brown.
He said he spoke with Lee Bergerman, the commanding officer for RCMP in Nova Scotia, on Sunday and offered advice on how to deal with the tragedy.
“We had a very personal talk about, you know, what she could do and what advice I could give her,” said Brown.
“I was someone that she could reach out to hoping for, you know, some sort of advice in going down this road.”
‘That sick feeling’
Brown said memories of the Moncton and Fredericton shootings feel fresh,
“I can recall, obviously, the exact time and place where I was when I received the call from Moncton and obviously the call in Fredericton,” said Brown.
“With those calls it’s automatic. You get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach and then all of a sudden every other emotion that’s out there.”
Two factors Brown didn’t have to contend with in the earlier shootings were the need for physical distancing and a restriction on public mourning, both now required because of COVID-19.
With the infectious respiratory illness still in the region, mourning and healing will have to be done in a much different way than happened in the aftermath of the Moncton and Fredericton shootings.
“Now most people are alone and, you know, it’s a very difficult time for people to even come together to be able to, you know, grieve,” said Brown.