Investigators combed through a property in a small village east of Ottawa on Friday as police looked to gather more information on a shooting that left one officer dead and two others injured a day earlier.
Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Eric Mueller died in hospital following the early Thursday shooting at a home in Bourget, Ont. The 42-year-old and two other officers had been responding to a disturbance call, police have said.
Alain Bellefeuille, a 39-year-old Bourget resident, is charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in the case. He’s expected to appear in court on Thursday in nearby L’Orignal, Ont.
In Bourget, police vehicles were parked Friday near the home where the shooting took place and officers went to and from the property. Police barricades remained in place in some areas and officers were seen going door-to-door in the area.
Veronique Poirier-Larabie had set up a small bunch of colourful silk flowers outside her home with Mueller’s name written on a window above. She said his car had been left outside her house the day before.
“I did not know this officer but he does deserve to be remembered,” said Poirier-Larabie, who moved to Bourget a month ago from Ottawa in search of a quiet community.
“It touched me,” she said of the tragedy. “I did cry.”
Poirier-Larabie said after the shooting, several members of the small village were checking in on one another as they processed what happened.
“You don’t expect this to happen,” she said. “This actually brought us probably a little closer.”
Poirier-Larabie and several other residents said they did not know the man charged in the case.
OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique has said Bellefeuille’s history would be closely mined for clues. Police have said they found a long gun at the scene of Thursday’s shooting.
A members-only shooting range west of Bourget said it had no record of Bellefeuille in its member database or of him having attended the facility.
A forested lot stands between Bertrand Gosselin’s street and the property where the shooting took place. He said he often hears gunshots through the trees and has seen tree stands for hunting set up further into the woods.
“It never bothered me because it’s not uncommon,” he said Friday. “Usually, you think someone is just shooting on their property.”
He said if the gunshots were closer he might have been more concerned.
Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General said they had not found previous criminal court files under Bellefeuille’s name.
Police alleged the three officers who were shot on Thursday were “ambushed” when they arrived at the home. The officers had called for backup before they approached, police said.
One injured officer was still in hospital in stable condition on Thursday while the other had been released. Police did not provide an update on the condition of the officer in hospital on Friday.
Funeral plans for Mueller are underway, OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson said Friday.
Mueller, remembered as a mentor and dedicated 21-year-veteran of the OPP, was previously injured on the job, court records show.
He underwent three operations and months of rehabilitation for a broken leg after he was crushed into the side of his cruiser by a tractor-trailer unit during an arrest gone wrong in April 2008.
The driver, who was wanted by police for failing to appear in court, tried to flee when Mueller and other officers stopped him on a highway exit ramp, according to a 2010 ruling in the case.
Mueller is the fifth police officer to be fatally shot in Ontario since September.
On Friday the OPP posted an obituary of sorts on its website to commemorate Mueller’s life and career.
He received a commissioner’s citation for lifesaving in 2015 after helping to lift a burning vehicle to remove an injured suspect, the post read.
“Sergeant Mueller’s devotion and courage will never be forgotten,” the post said.
A book of condolences for Mueller will be available to sign this weekend at the Bourget Community Centre and the city hall in Rockland, the seat of the local municipality.