'We will never forget you': Family friend honours fallen Fredericton police officer at funeral

'We will never forget you': Family friend honours fallen Fredericton police officer at funeral

Just over a week after they were killed in the line of duty along with two civilians, Fredericton police Constables Robb Costello and Sara Burns are being honoured before more than 1,000 family members, friends and first responders from across Canada, in a funeral filled with personal stories of love and dedication to their jobs.

Costello, 45, and Burns, 43, were killed while responding to a report of gunfire at an apartment complex at 237 Brookside Dr. on the city’s north side the morning of Aug. 10. Donnie Robichaud, 42, and his girlfriend, Bobbie Lee Wright, 32, also died.

Costello was a 20-year veteran and father of four and Burns was a married mother of three who became a constable two years ago.  

The flag-draped casket of slain Fredericton police officer Const. Robb Costello is carried past members of the Fredericton Police department, family, and friends during a regimental funeral on Saturday that also honoured Const. Sara Burns. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Saturday’s funeral, with more than 1,000 in attendance at the Aitken University Centre and live streamed in two other public areas in the New Brunswick capital, opened with Fredericton police Const. Debbie Stafford, acting as master of ceremonies, noting, “Their ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten.”

With members of the Fredericton Police Force, RCMP and agencies from across the country in attendance, Burns’s husband Steven Burns gave a moving and personal tribute to his wife, calling himself “the husband of the most beautiful and caring woman I have ever met.”

“Sara has always been my hero and my angel,” he said during his eulogy. “But now she is the hero of a community and a nation.”

Steven Burns lays a flower on the flag-draped casket of his wife, Const. Sara Burns, as their three sons walk to their seats during the funeral service. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Burns said the fallen police officer was his best friend and spent the past 19 years also being “the best wife, business owner and hockey mom” of their three sons: Duncan, Malcolm and Anderson.

He also spoke about his wife’s love for the Fredericton Police Force and encouraged officers to rely on one another during this time of tragedy.

“I want you to know how much you all meant to her,” he said. “I want each of you to know she is at peace and you did everything you could to protect her.” 

Lived and died a hero

Greg Morris, a family friend of the Costello family, said Robb died doing the job he loved most and helping those around him.

“Robb Costello didn’t become a hero as he died. He became a hero as he lived,” Morris said.

Jackie McLean lays a flower on the flag-draped casket of slain partner Costello as their children stand by. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Morris, a friend of Robb’s for two decades, also spoke about Costello’s love for his children, his partner Jackie McLean and his mother Dolores Costello-Francis.

“We will never forget you. You have finished your shift. You are off duty. Take a deep breath — you are home now.”

Throughout the service, the speakers also acknowledged the two civilians killed last week — Robichaud and his girlfriend, Wright — and their grieving families and friends.

The funeral service isn’t open to the public because the Aitken University Centre arena can only accommodate about 4,300 people.

Dignitaries in Saturday’s regimental funeral include:

  • New Brunswick Lt.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau​.
  • Dominic LeBlanc, federal minister of intergovernmental affairs. ​
  • New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant.
  • Fredericton Mayor Mike O’Brien and city councillors.​
  • RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki​.
  • Assistant Commissioner Larry Tremblay, commanding officer RCMP New Brunswick.

Priority was given to the families of the fallen officers, Fredericton police and other law enforcement personnel.

But that didn’t stop thousands of people from lining the rain-swept streets of Fredericton along the route of a funeral procession to honour the two officers ahead of the regimental funeral in New Brunswick’s capital.

The procession of first responders started at noon AT at Fredericton High School, and moved along Priestman Street to Regent Street, down to Montgomery Street and across to the University of New Brunswick campus.

Grimsby, a 10-year-old standardbred racehorse partly owned by Burns, followed behind the hearses.

Costello, 45, and Burns, 43, were killed when they answered a call about shots being fired on the north side of Fredericton on Aug. 10. (Photo: Submitted)

The horse was led by Grimsby’s co-owner, Stefan Decourcey, a constable with the Fredericton police.

CBC News broadcast the procession and is now broadcasting the funeral service until about 2 p.m. — on CBC News Network, radio and online here, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Costello and Burns were the first on the scene and gunned down as they approached Robichaud and Wright.

Costello and his partner, Jackie McLean, have two children each they brought into their relationship. Burns served as an auxiliary officer for two years before becoming a constable.

First responders come to Fredericton

Grimsby, along with his co-owner, Const. Stefan Decourcey, marched behind the hearses of two Fredericton police officers killed on Aug. 10. (María José Burgos/CBC)

Despite heavy rain in the city, about the over 1,000 first responders from across the country could be seen trickling into the Fredericton High School gymnasium ahead of the procession.

Annie Gregoire, acting superintendent for the Ottawa Paramedic Service, said the funeral is a stark reminder of the dangers that first responders can face on the job.

RCMP officers line up during the funeral procession in Fredericton. (María José Burgos/CBC)

But she said the day will be about being there for one another as first responders, and ensuring people are not alone — especially the family of the fallen officers.

“This tragedy has united a lot of us in the first responder community all across the nation — and actually all across the continent as well,” Gregoire said.

“The most important thing in times like these is to get together to support each other and pay our respects for the family and the people who are grieving.”

The hearses carrying Costello and Burns in Saturday’s regimental funeral procession. (María José Burgos/CBC)

This is the second time in four years that first responders have gathered together in New Brunswick to pay tribute to fallen officers.

Three Mounties were killed and two others badly injured in Moncton in June 2014 after a gunman opened fire in the city about 180 kilometres east of Fredericton. That funeral also drew thousands of RCMP officers and police officials from across Canada.

Residents gather outside

Residents from across the city gather to show support for the Fredericton Police Force. (María José Burgos/CBC)

Among those enduring heavy rain and cold weather to line the funeral procession route to show their support was Rick Lingley, who was holding back tears as he stood beside his wife, Ann. 

His son has served as a police officer with Fredericton police.

“Every day they put their life on the line for us,” Lingley​ said before the procession started.

He said he’s proud of the City of Fredericton for rallying behind the police force during such a difficult time.

It’s been a very long week and it’s just as fresh as it was a week ago.-Sandy  Adshade , general manager at Mary Browns

“When this happened, it really hit home,” said the Fredericton resident.

“These are really good people, everybody that serves. They’re human beings.”

Sandy Adshade, general manager at Mary Brown’s, a restaurant in a strip mall along the parade route on Regent Street, said she and her staff planned to watch from the sidewalk as the regimental parade passes.

Residents began lining up ahead of the funeral procession on Priestman Street in Fredericton on Saturday morning. (Myfanwy Davies/CBC)

Adshade said she knows people in the community who were personally affected by last week’s shooting.

“It’s been a tragedy,” she said. “It’s been a very hard week … it’s not going away any time soon.”

Sandy Adshade, general manager at Mary Brown’s, watched the funeral procession on the sidewalk outside her store at the corner of Priestman and Regent streets. (Myfanwy Davies/CBC)

Adshade said she has been trying to focus on work throughout the week, but it has been hard.

“We try to carry on but we need to remember and stick together. It’s been a very long week and it’s just as fresh as it was a week ago.”

2 live stream viewing areas

The live streaming of the funeral is underway at two locations in the city:

  • The Grant Harvey Centre at 600 Knowledge Park Dr. on the south side.
  • Hope City Church, formerly known as Sunset Church, at 429 Clements Dr., on the north side.

Some roads are closed and there is limited parking in the area.

The procession started at noon AT at Fredericton High School and made its way to the Aitken Centre at the University of New Brunswick, with the funeral scheduled to start at 1 p.m. (CBC)

The accused in last week’s shooting, Matthew Vincent Raymond, 48, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 27.

With files from Myfanwy Davies

Published at Sat, 18 Aug 2018 06:00:00 -0400