Final farewell held for officers killed in Fredericton shooting

Ben Cousins, Staff

Published Saturday, August 18, 2018 7:40AM EDT

Last Updated Saturday, August 18, 2018 4:40PM EDT

The two officers who were killed in last week’s deadly shooting in Fredericton are being remembered as dedicated officers with a passion for policing.

Fredericton Police constables Robb Costello, 45, and Sara Burns, 43, were fatally shot last week while responding to a call outside an apartment complex in the city’s north end.

During a regimental funeral Saturday in front of thousands of friends, family members and first responders from across the country, Burns’ husband Steven fought back tears as he called his wife “the most beautiful and caring woman I ever met.”

Burns, a mother of three, decided to pursue a goal of becoming a police officer at age 35. She had been working as an officer in Fredericton for the past two years.

“I’ve said it a thousand times this week: she was proud beyond her words to be a City of Fredericton police officer,” Burns told mourners while wearing a yellow tie, his wife’s favourite colour. “She absolutely loved her job and I can remember all too often, driving in the car with her, just the two of us, and mid-sentence, she would just belt out, ‘I love my job.’”

“Sara has always been my hero and my angel, but now she is a hero and an angel for a community, a province and a nation,” Steven continued. “Words cannot express how in love I was with her. She truly was my best friend.”

Greg Morris, a family friend speaking on behalf of the Costello family, said Costello also took pride in being a police officer.

“Rob loved being a policeman, it was his lifelong passion,” Morris said during the ceremony. “Rob Costello didn’t become a hero because he died, he was a hero as he lived. He loved being a cop.”

Costello was a father of two and a stepfather of two other children, who embraced him as their “Faux-Pa,” Morris said. Costello also loved his mother deeply, Morris said, and once spent two days in hospital with her when she was sick.

Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau, lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick, said both Burns and Costello showed what it means to be exemplary police officers.

“They showed quick thinking, courage under fire and a willingness to risk their lives,” she said. “While we all wish for a different outcome, I promise we will not forget the sacrifices made in the line of duty.”

Fredericton Police Chief Leanne Fitch called Burns’ and Costello’s actions during the shooting a “final, selfless act of bravery.”

“They were the type of people that exemplified all that was good, tender and joyful,” she said.

Fitch trained Costello when he first joined the Fredericton Police Force in 1998.

“It always warmed my heart to see him smile and know that he loved his job,” she said. “There isn’t a doubt in my mind that he went into that situation willingly and bravely.”

Fitch met Burns when Burns began work with the force as auxiliary officer, and said she took note of how proud Burns was to become a full-time officer.

“I always felt that our police department and city were better because of her and that things would be okay in the years ahead,” Fitch said. “I don’t think Sara knew how proud I was of her, and I’m heart sick to be too late in saying so.”

To open the ceremony, Fredericton native and award-winning singer Measha Brueggergosman sang an emotional rendition of “O Canada.”

Const. Debbie Stafford, a colleague of both fallen officers, served as master of ceremonies. Stafford said her colleagues will never be forgotten and the support from her officers have received from the across the country has helped them get through this difficult time.

Earlier Saturday, two silver hearses carried the bodies of both officers as a procession of roughly 1,400 first responders made its way along the 2.5-kilometre route from Fredericton High School to Aitken Centre on the campus of the University of New Brunswick.

Among those to take part were officers from more than 150 agencies from across North America, including British Columbia, Ontario, Boston and Maine.

Burns co-owned a light-grey police horse named Grimsby, who followed directly behind its owner’s hearse.

Several police detachments surrounding Fredericton offered up their services so that members of the Fredericton police could take some time to mourn their fallen colleagues. The Saint John Fire Department covered the Fredericton area as well so local firefighters could be part of the procession.

Hundreds of residents gathered along the route to show their support, many of whom donned blue ribbons as a sign of solidarity for their local police force.

“Some people are saying it does provide a little bit of closure and it means a little more for people to really come to terms and grasp just how enormous this loss really is,” CTV Atlantic reporter Laura Brown told CTV News Channel from along the procession route.

“Everybody in this community seems to know one another and has a connection to this loss. And it’s clear so many are wanting to come out and pay their respects.”

At the end of the march, pallbearers pulled both caskets — draped in Canadian flags — and brought them into the Aitken Centre, where a sombre crowd of roughly 4,000 waited.

Two civilians Bobbie Lee Wright, 32, and Donnie Robichaud, 42, were also killed in last week’s shooting. Wright’s family held a public visitation on Wednesday, but she will not have a funeral. Robichaud requested not to have a visitation or funeral, according to his obituary.

The suspect in the shooting, 48-year-old Matthew Vincent Raymond, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 27.

With files The Canadian Press

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