Bourque pleads guilty to murdering Mounties
Justin Christien Bourque admitted on Friday that he was the gunman who went on a shooting rampage in June, killing three police officers.
The 24-year-old Moncton man appeared in court Friday afternoon to set dates for his judge and jury trial but instead admitted to shooting five RCMP officers the night of June 4 in Moncton’s north end.
Wearing a grey T-shirt, and with his hair hanging in his eyes, Bourque stood before Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice David Smith and pleaded guilty to committing first-degree murder on Const. Fabrice Gevaudan, Const. Dave Ross and Const. Douglas Larche. He also pleaded guilty to using a firearm to attempt to murder Const. Eric Dubois and Const. Darlene Goguen.
Smith asked Bourque several questions before accepting his guilty pleas, such as whether he’s doing so voluntarily, if he understands he’s admitting the essential elements of the crimes and if he understands the court isn’t bound by a joint recommendation between defence lawyers David Lutz and Shanna Wicks and Crown prosecutors Cameron Gunn and PJ Veniot. In this case, there is no agreement between the two sides on sentencing.
Smith also informed him he will be sentenced to life in prison and the court can order his periods without parole eligibility to be served consecutively, which the Crown is requesting in this case. If the judge agrees with the Crown’s recommendation, that would mean Bourque would have to serve 75 years — 25 for each murder — before being eligible to apply for parole.
If the judge orders that, it would mean Bourque can’t apply for parole until he’s 99 years old.
Bourque was soft spoken as he answered the judge and entered his guilty pleas, but he was polite and could be easily heard throughout the silent courtroom. The room was about half full, with reporters, Bourque’s friends and family, police officers, lawyers and courthouse staff in the public gallery.
Smith scheduled sentencing for Oct. 27 and ordered victim impact statements and a pre-sentence report if the lawyers want them. Bourque was remanded back into custody until sentencing.
The journalists in attendance were unable to report the guilty pleas as they were entered. At the start of the hearing, Lutz asked for a publication ban to prevent the media from reporting from inside the courtroom, saying a ban for the duration of the hearing would be in the best interest of justice.
Gunn agreed to a ban as long as it was only while the hearing was ongoing and Smith ordered. Once the hearing ended, the news of the guilty pleas could be reported.
None of the lawyers involved in the case would speak to reporters after the 30-minute hearing. The offender’s father, Victor Bourque, offered a “no comment” outside the Moncton Law Courts when asked for comment on his son’s guilty pleas. Codiac RCMP Supt. Marlene Snowman also left without responding to media questions, and requests for an interview with Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown in Fredericton were refused.
The killer first appeared in court June 6 and was charged with crimes relating to the June 4 shootings, which left the community terrorized and in lockdown. He was arrested just after midnight on June 6, at the end of a search involving hundreds of police officers.
Lutz first appeared with Bourque in court on July 3 and requested a psychiatric assessment for his client, supporting that request with an affidavit from Victor Bourque. On July 31, the court received the psychiatric report which found Bourque competent, fit to stand trial and that he “does not meet the criteria of being not criminally responsible” for any alleged crimes.
Lutz asked for the report to be sealed to protect his client’s right to a fair trial and the request was granted by the court when the prosecutors didn’t object.
In that affidavit filed on July 3, Victor Bourque said he noticed Justin’s emotional and mental state deteriorating in the month preceding the shooting. He said his son’s behaviour began to change over the last year and a half and before that, he hadn’t noticed any serious mental or emotional problems with Justin.
Up until Dec. 10, 2012, Justin lived in the family home with his mother and father and six siblings. Victor said they were a close-knit family, but on that date Justin moved out at the request of his parents.
“His inappropriate behaviour and his purchase of yet another gun prompted our request,” he said in the court document.
“Since that time, I noticed him entering into serious depression, emotional and financial instability which got worse by the month. I noticed this when Justin came home to visit or eat. Often he would pace back and forth while talking about things that made no sense to me or other members of the family.”
Victor said he noticed Justin’s emotional and mental state deteriorating in the month preceding the shooting.
“Approximately two days before the incident, I was unable to calm Justin down while driving him to work,” he said in the affidavit. “He was ranting and raging against all authority and concerning himself with matters which were well beyond his control and some issues not even relating to Canada. This behaviour I can only describe as paranoia.
“I was unable to reason with him in any manner whatsoever.”
Justin Bourque was with his father around 5 p.m. on June 4 and he told his dad he was on his way to work. A while later, Victor got a phone call from his son’s employer saying Justin didn’t show up.
“I called him to ask why he lied to me — he was distant and disrespectful on the telephone,” said Victor. “He hung up on me. He had never spoken to me in this fashion before. His tone was very dry and as if it was another person speaking.”
By 7:20 p.m., Mounties responded to reports of a gunman in Moncton’s north end were being gunned down by a man with a high-powered rifle.