Healing hearts: Families and victims reflect on one year since Fredericton shooting
People across the country are remembering the loss of four people after a horrific shooting that took place one year ago on Saturday.
David MacCoubrey awoke to the sound of gunshots the morning of Aug. 10, 2018. He then spent much of that morning crouching on his apartment floor. CTV Atlantic spoke to him later that day.
“I didn’t know if it was like, firecrackers, or a car going off or something. It was three shots initially, and it woke me up about 7:07…it started again about five minutes later, and then I was like, OK, this isn’t kids playing, this is actually something serious,” he said.
In the days that followed, after police finished their work at 237 Brookside Drive, MacCoubrey was allowed to return to his apartment. That’s when he realized, he was much closer to the situation than he thought.
“There was a bullet hole above the window and that really bothered me. It’s one thing to think, maybe he shot at you, but to see the bullet hole, to see he just missed me by a couple feet, it really bothered me,” he said. “It makes you think about your life and how fragile like is.”
MacCoubrey still lives in the building today, but he says many tenants have left.
He did seek professional help to deal with the trauma, but says it’s the kindness of Frederictonians that helped him most.
“The amount of hugs and encouraging words that I got, it chokes me up. It’s choking me up now. I’ve never had to rely on that but it did mean lot to me.”
Four people died in the shooting outside a northside Fredericton apartment complex in the early morning hours of Aug. 10, 2018.
Victim Donnie Robichaud, 42, was a talented musician, father of three, auto-body worker and all-around “nice guy.”
Bobbie Lee Wright, 32, loved to “assist others,” as a compassionate home support worker.
Const. Robb Costello, 45, was a beloved father and partner, and an officer for over 20 years.
Const. Sara Burns, 43, mother of three, dreamt of being a police officer – and went back to school in her thirties to pursue her dream.
“He wasn’t perfect. But he was perfect for me.”
Robb Costello was Jackie McLean’s partner and soulmate.
“From one moment until the next, it feels like it was just minutes ago that I learned the news, and then it feels like it’s been a decade since he was here,” she said in an interview leading up to the one-year anniversary.
The walls in Jackie’s living room are painted a different colour – but the memories of Robb hang so clear. There are pictures of the two of them together, of Costello in uniform, and one of him dancing with his mother.
In the corner sits a collection of badges and challenge coins that officers from all over the world have sent her.
And on a shelf, a figurine of Mickey Mouse shaking the hand of a police officer.
“I remember how Robb told me that if I cried after he was gone, that he would haunt me,” she said. “So the joke is that I cry a little bit every day so he still comes home.”
Jackie hasn’t returned to work yet. The trauma has had its effect. But she isn’t afraid to talk about it.
“My organization skills and time management have completely gone out the window. Things that I used to find easy to do, now take a lot more time. I walk into a room and don’t know why I’m there. I lost almost two-thirds of my hair, it fell out.”
Open and honest, she says she has many days where she relives Aug. 10, 2018 in her mind, over and over again.
“That’s difficult because…there’s a lot of it that I don’t remember because I was in such shock. And so I replay this movie of this day with the pieces that I can remember and once it starts I can’t stop. I have to see it through until the end.”
Jackie said Robb warned her about the challenges of being with a police officer. She says he was strong and protective, but so warm and loving. She still maintains a close relationship with his mother, who she says, deserves all the credit for raising the man of her dreams.
She says Robb was Irish and loved to laugh, so in his memory people are invited to join in a pub crawl on Saturday night.
All funds raised will go to the Robb Costello Memorial Fund.
“He would take the shirt off his back for you in a minute.”
Tammy White believes her brother now watches over her.
“Every time I see a motorcycle now, or if I hear a band and a bass playing…it brings memories back,” she said.
Donnie Robichaud was well-known on the Fredericton music scene. But to Tammy, he was a family man, who cared deeply for his three kids and rarely went a day without talking to his mom.
She says she misses his laugh the most, and how he would “torment” friends and family. A stranger sent her two paintings of Donnie. She has them displayed in her living room, alongside other memories.
Tammy says her faith has been a huge part of trying to heal. She’ll be taking part in the “Hands and Hearts Across the City” event planned for Saturday evening -- a gathering she says has been a source of strength too.
“I pray for the city, that they will have healing,” she said. “That they can still connect with one another even after this is all done, because it’s going to be a while still, with the trial coming up in September. It’s going to be hard.”
“I’ll be thinking about our police force. It will be a difficult day.”
Fredericton Mayor Mike O’Brien was on one of the last days of his vacation Aug. 10, 2018. He said it was former Fredericton Police Chief Leanne Fitch who told him what happened.
“It was one of the darkest days in Fredericton’s history. You’re never prepared for this as a citizen, as a police officer, as a mayor. People look to you for some leadership and guidance and you always try to find the right words. It was difficult.”
He recalls driving back into the city, and being asked to speak at a news conference that afternoon.
“I had nothing prepared. But I remember saying that all of this was one of the darkest days in our history, but that the next few days you’ll see the best of Fredericton.”
In an interview with CTV Atlantic from his city hall office, O’Brien said that’s exactly what happened. People came together – leaving hundreds of flowers, notes and pictures outside the Fredericton Police Station. Thousands of people held hands across Fredericton’s walking bridge, linking the south and north sides of the city.
“A typical Canadian community…the outpouring of support for our police and our first responders, the outpouring of grief, the way the community came together and looked after each other. Neighbourhoods were getting together and meeting on the street and talking and helping each other.”
He said on the one-year anniversary, he’ll be thinking most about the city’s police force. The force will be marking the day privately. A few officers are still off the job.
“We have full complement because we gave the Force the money to hire some additional police above their normal complement while other officers were still healing…most of the workers are back, a lot are. They all deal with it in their own way.”
Chief Fitch retired in June and former RCMP assistant commissioner Roger Brown has become the Force’s new chief.
“People understand the significance of this. We hope this never happens again of any magnitude. But we’re not immune from…whatever the issue was that caused this to happen…but how you deal with it and how you show resilience is the important part.
“We’ll never forget the fallen.”
With files from CTV Atlantic's Laura Brown