'Ambush' Police say that OPP officers were shot within minutes of arriving at scene
Published Thursday, May 11, 2023 7:10AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 11, 2023 5:09PM EDT
An Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer is dead and two others are injured following what officials are describing as an “ambush” attack at a home in eastern Ontario on Thursday morning.
Police say the three officers were responding to a call for the sounds of gunshots at a residence in Bourget, Ont. shortly after 2 a.m. when they were shot at by an assailant.
All three officers were transported to a hospital in Ottawa following the shooting.
One of the officers, identified as 42-year-old Sgt. Eric Mueller, has since died.
The suspect, 39-year-old Alain Bellefeuille, was not injured and was taken into custody. He has since been charged with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. A long gun was also recovered at the scene, police say.
“That will form part of investigation but that is exactly how I would describe it based on the information I have,” OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said when asked whether the incident amounted to an “ambush” during a press conference on Thursday afternoon. “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 – simply for arriving on scene I categorize that as an ambush.”
Police say that one of the injured officers, a 43-year-old man with 19 year on the job, remains in hospital in stable but critical condition. The other wounded officer, a 35-year-old man with 10 years on the job, was treated and released from hospital.
Carrique said that Mueller was an “exemplary officer” and a “family man” who was "murdered simply, selflessly serving his community."
"He is described by hiss colleagues as a coach, a mentor, someone that everyone looked up to and the glue that held the shift together,” he said. “Our hearts are broken as we remember Eric, we stand beside his family and we focus our attention on the recovery of the officers that have been physically injured and emotionally impacted."
So far few details are known about what may have lead up to the shooting.
Carrique said that investigators are still looking into the suspect’s background, however he said that it is not a case “where this is an individual that we have been dealing with repeatedly for years.”
He said that the quick arrest of a suspect is thanks to the “heroic" actions of OPP officers who "were responding in aid to their injured colleagues."
"As you can imagine our officers are highly trained and they were able to rely upon their training to safely apprehend the accused," he said.
Community reacts to deadly shooting
As police continue to investigate the shooting, condolences are pouring in from across Ontario and the country.
Clarence-Rockland Mayor Mario Zanth said in a statement that he was “was saddened and dismayed” by the fatal incident.
“We have a very close relationship with the Ontario Provincial Police and our hearts go out to them,” Zanth said. “Sadly, today we mourn the loss of a serving officer. There are no words that can express the pain that the residents of the City of Clarence-Rockland are feeling at this time.”
He said flags at city hall would be flown at half-mast as a mark of respect.
Condolences started to pour in Thursday from other police forces and public officials.
“The death of OPP Sgt. Eric Mueller, who was senselessly killed in the line of duty, is devastating news,” Premier Doug Ford wrote in a tweet. “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.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it “awful news” and sent his condolences in a tweet.
“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,” Trudeau wrote.
OFFICER’S DEATH LATEST IN ‘TROUBLING TREND’ OF POLICE KILLINGS
The death of Sgt. Mueller marks the latest in a spate of incidents that have left officers dead over the past year or so.
Just this past weekend, Ontario added four names from 2022 to its memorial for officers killed in the line of duty. Those killed last year include Toronto police officer Andrew Hong, South Simcoe police constables Devon Northrup and Morgan Russell, and OPP Const. Grzegorz Pierzchala.
Const. Andrew Hong was gunned down in a Tim Horton’s while on a break from a training exercise in Mississauga on Sept. 12, 2022 by a suspect who was allegedly “looking for a police officer” and proceeded on a shooting spree around the GTA.
Northrup and Russell were fatally shot while responding to a disturbance call at a home in Innisfil Oct. 11, 2022.
Const. Pierzchala was fatally shot while responding to a broken down vehicle near Hagersville, Ont.
Even more officers were killed around the country over the past year.
“Well, I think we have to basically treat it like it's a troubling trend,” CTV Public Safety Analyst and former OPP commissioner Chris Lewis told CP24. “We can pray it was just a bad year, but the number of officers – 10 murdered in nine months basically – is just so troubling. That's the most officers murdered in the line of duty in Canada in a single year since 1961. So you know, I think that the bigger issue here is around mental health. “
Lewis said the pandemic and other factors have left “a lot of people hurting,” compounding mental illness, homelessness, strain on the health-care system and other problems.
“There's not necessarily enough professionals to deal with all of that,” Lewis said. “So the police end up dealing with the result.”