FREDERICTON, N.B. – A pair of Fredericton police officers were remembered Saturday during a regimental funeral for their sense of duty, honour and commitment to serving and protecting the community.
Constables Robb Costello and Sara Burns were memorialized during the funeral service that was attended by law enforcement representatives from across the country.
Both were fatally shot while responding to a report of gunfire in a north-end Fredericton neighbourhood on Aug. 10.
“Your Sara and your Robb were our Sara and our Robb too,” police chief Leanne 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.”
Fitch said it’s not a time for anger and urged the community to become better, not bitter. She said her force is in mourning, but it will continue to serve.
“You have all been there for us and we will continue to be there for you even in our quietest moments,” Fitch said.
New Brunswick Lt. Gov. Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau said Burns and Costello will not be forgotten.
“We will remember Sara and Robb today and every day,” she said. “I promise. We will recall their service to duty, to this city and its citizens for every.”
Roy-Vienneau said police risk their lives every day to protect their communities. They love their jobs and show a willingness to go above and beyond, often putting themselves in harm’s way.
“Like all of you in uniform, these two loved their work and they appreciated their community. They showed quick-thinking and courage under fire and a willingness to risk their lives,” she said. “They served, they protected, they helped others, they improved lives and they made this community better.”
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 and her prouded moment was being sworn in as a member of the Fredericton police 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.”
He said his wife will always be his hero and his angel and now she’s a hero to her community, her province and her country.
Greg Morris, a friend of Costello’s, said he didn’t become a hero because he died.
“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.”
Following the service, Sgt. Kelly Oberg from the Calgary Police Department said it's hard when a fellow office loses his or her life on duty.
"It’s difficult to see the families and the spouses and how it impacts the children," she said. "We’re from Calgary and, as a fellow police officer, all police officers understand the risks of the job and we all understand that, by the grace of God, it could be any one of us at any time."
Phillip Ross from the Cape Breton Regional Police was a classmate of Costello's at the Atlantic Police Academy. He said the ceremony was well planned and very fitting.
"A lot of touching moments, it touches your heart," he said. "There’s solidarity no matter where you’re from, Canadian American, everybody comes together to show their support."
He said everybody is conscious to the fact it could happen and they train for every type of scenario but, unfortunately, things like this do occur.
"It’s a tragic set of circumstances," Ross said.
Dwayne Pike, acting chief of the Amherst Police Department, was one of eight members of his department to attend the funeral.
"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 are a community.
Pike said quit is not in the 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 is, no matter what happens, you can’t quit, you have to move forward."
Also killed during the Aug. 10 shooting were civilians Donnie Robichaud, 42, and his girlfriend, 32-year-old Bobbie Lee Wright. A 48-year-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 on Aug. 27.
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 is 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 her 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.
(With files from Dave Mathieson)