Four Are Killed in New Brunswick, and Canada Repeats a Sad Ritual

The police responded to a shooting on Friday in Fredericton, a university town in New Brunswick.

In what has started to feel like a Canadian ritual, flags were lowered to half-staff, tributes flooded in on social media and mourners created makeshift memorials. This time, the outpouring came after Canadians learned that two police officers had been fatally shot and two others killed Friday morning in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

“As mayor, this is something I never wanted to live through,” Fredericton’s leader, Mike O’Brien, said at a news conference. “We will get through this together.”

The two officers were responding to a report of gunshots in a residential area of Fredericton, the provincial capital, when they came upon two bodies, Deputy Police Chief Martin Gaudet said at a news conference. The officers were killed as they approached the victims, he said.

A number of other people were taken to hospitals, including the gunman, who was seriously injured. Officials would not disclose the nature of any of the injuries, or how they were incurred. The assailant was identified only as 48-year-old local man.

The shootings, followed by a two-hour lockdown in the surrounding neighborhood, shocked many in this city of about 60,000. Gun violence is rare in Fredericton, and homicides all but nonexistent: The last one occurred in 2014.

Many found themselves startled to be thrust into a national debate about gun crime — something usually connected to larger cities, like Toronto, which is still reeling from a shooting rampage last month.

But once news spread that two of the victims were police officers, there was also a sickly sense of déjà vu. In 2014, a gunman hunted down police officers in nearby Moncton, killing three of them and wounding two.

On Friday in Fredericton, the police would not discuss a possible motive for the shooting or the type of gun used. The investigation, said Deputy Chief Gaudet, was being handed over to the Fredericton branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Robert DiDiodato, who lives near the shooting scene, said that he was reading and drinking coffee shortly before 7 a.m. when he heard several loud gunshots outside. He stepped out of his house to investigate and heard shots again.

“It was a bang and a bang, then bang, bang, bang,” Mr. DiDiodato said.

Mr. DiDiodato said that police officers, some armed with assault rifles, swarmed a small apartment building in the area. He said he could see officers shielding residents while evacuating them from their homes.

“I found it quite impressive,” he said. “It just struck me that they had the evacuees between them and the building where the shooter was.”

For about two hours on Friday morning, the police advised neighbors to stay inside and lock their doors. Officers shut down a four-mile stretch of road.

As news of the shooting spread across the country, tributes flowed from politicians, fellow police officers and other Canadians.

“There is no greater gesture than to put oneself in harm’s way to protect the life of another,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a written statement. “This morning, first responders rushed to the scene of danger. We will not forget the two fallen police officers whose sacrifice no doubt saved lives and prevented even greater tragedy.”

The Fredericton police force had 110 officers and 17 civilian personnel in 2013, the most recent publicly available tally.

The deceased officers were identified as Lawrence Robert Costello, 45, and Sara Mae Helen Burns, 43. The police did not identify the two other victims, other than to say they were an adult man and an adult female, nor did they say how the two had been killed.

Premier Brian Gallant of New Brunswick said he was reminded of the case in 2014 when a man named Justin Bourque set out in Moncton to shoot police officers, with the deluded hope of igniting an anti-government rebellion. Parts of that city were locked down for a day.

Mr. Bourque pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 75 years — the heftiest sentence in Canada since capital punishment was abolished in the 1960s.

Even then, there was little debate about gun control in New Brunswick, said David Lutz, a lawyer who represented Mr. Bourque. A national registry for rifles and shotguns was repealed in 2012, largely because hunters and farmers in rural areas resented any implication that they could not be responsible with their guns.

After the shootings in Toronto last month, Mayor John Tory began a campaign to ban handguns in the city. While the federal government said it would consider the idea, Ontario’s new premier has dismissed it. “There’s a lot of legal, responsible handgun owners,” Premier Doug Ford told The Toronto Star.

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