One Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer was shot dead, and two others were injured, in what police are calling an “ambush” in the eastern Ontario community of Bourget in the municipality of Clarence-Rockland early Thursday morning.
The officer who was killed has been identified as Sgt. Eric Mueller, according to OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique.
“He is described by his colleagues as a coach and mentor,” Carrrique said at a news conference at the OPP Ottawa detachment Thursday afternoon. “Somebody that everybody looked up to. The glue that held the ship together.”
One of the injured officers, who is 35, has been treated and released from hospital, Carrique said. The other, who is in his early 40s, remains in hospital in stable condition. No civilians were injured in the encounter and OPP say there is no danger to the public.
Police said they arrested a 39-year-old man. Court documents obtained by CBC identify the suspect as Alain Bellefeuille, who has been charged with one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder. According to the Criminal Code of Canada, murder is automatically in the first degree when the victim is a police officer.
Bellefeuille appeared in court via video on Thursday afternoon and his next court appearance is set for May 18.
Officers respond to disturbance
Just after 2 a.m., Mueller and two other officers were called to a disturbance at a home on Laval Street in Bourget, OPP said. Carrique said it is his understanding the residence belonged to the shooter.
Someone had reported hearing a gunshot.
When the officers arrived, all three were shot by someone at the home, OPP said. They were taken to hospital in Ottawa, where one of them died.
Carrique called the events an “ambush.”
“When three officers arrive on scene and within minutes are shot, one is killed, another is very seriously and critically injured, and another injured to the point of requiring medical attention for simply arriving on scene,” he said. “I categorize that as an ambush.”
Other OPP officers arrived on scene and were able to safely take the accused into custody, Carrique said. Officers from the Ottawa Police Service are assisting.
Five Ontario police officers who died in the line of duty this past year were honoured in Toronto Sunday. Since September, Carrique said 10 officers across Canada have been lost in the line of duty — nine of them killed.
Madison Bach, who lives about three doors down from the house where the shooting took place, told CBC her partner thought he heard something at 2 a.m., but went back to bed.
At 3 a.m. Bach woke up to nurse their six-month-old daughter and saw the flashing lights of first responders outside.
“It’s just really scary that it can happen so close to where you live. Bourget is a very remote community. It’s very quiet,” she said.
The MPP for the area, Stéphane Sarrazin, told CBC in an interview from Toronto Thursday that officials will be working with first responders to get them proper support.
“Our thoughts are with the police officer and their family, and it’s devastating to hear that kind of situation went on in our riding,” he said.
In a Twitter post Thursday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford called Mueller’s killing senseless and asked people to pray for the other officers.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the news coming out of Bourget “awful,” and said the two injured officers are in his thoughts.
The death of OPP Sgt. Eric Mueller, who was senselessly killed in the line of duty, is devastating news. My thoughts are with his family and friends.
Please join me in praying for his fellow officers as we await word on their condition. May God bless our heroes in uniform. https://t.co/WxoMPB69u7
Awful news coming from Bourget, Ontario this morning. I’m sending my deepest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of @OPP_News Sergeant Eric Mueller, who was killed in the line of duty, and I’m keeping the two injured officers in my thoughts.
The mayor of Clarence-Rockland, Mario Zanth, said in an interview the community is trying to “support itself and each other.”
“You’re always shocked when it happens everywhere else, but when it happens at home, it definitely hits a little harder,” Zanth said.
Bourget is about 50 kilometres east of downtown Ottawa.