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Police, public pay respects to OPP officer killed in shooting east of Ottawa

People walk behind a hearse on a busy city street. A casket draped with a red flag can be seen inside the hearse, and dozens of police officers stand in a line on the sidewalk.
A hearse carrying the body of Sgt. Eric Mueller arrives in Clarence-Rockland, Ont., on Saturday, May 13, 2023. Two days earlier, Mueller was fatally shot while responding to a disturbance with two other OPP officers in the nearby community of Bourget. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Police officers and community members gathered in Clarence-Rockland, Ont., on Saturday to pay their respects to Sgt. Eric Mueller, who was fatally shot two days earlier while responding to a disturbance.

Just after 2 a.m. Thursday, Mueller and two other officers were called to a home on Laval Street in the nearby village of Bourget after someone reported hearing a gunshot, Ontario Provincial Police said.

Within minutes of arriving, Mueller and two of his detachment colleagues were shot by someone at the home, OPP said. They were taken to hospital in Ottawa, where Mueller died. 

Alain Bellefeuille, 39, has since been charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

Books of condolence were available to sign Saturday afternoon in both Bourget and at city hall in Clarence-Rockland, where Mueller lived.

A police officer looks at the camera.
Mueller was shot within minutes of arriving on the scene in Bourget on Thursday, Ontario Provincial Police have said. (Ontario Provincial Police)

A procession of first responders also escorted Mueller’s body Saturday afternoon from The Ottawa Hospital to the Brunet Funeral Home in Clarence-Rockland. 

Police invited members of the public to watch the procession from one of the many overpasses along the highway or along the shoulder of a portion of Highway 17. 

Officers also lined the street in front of the funeral home Saturday as they waited for the procession to arrive — and among them was Clarence-Rockland Mayor Mario Zanth.

“He was a community and he protected this leader,” said Zanth. “It’s fitting that he returns home to the community where he’ll be laid to rest.”

‘I’ve gone through this same situation’

Roger and Carol Benoit were among the first people to sign the book of condolence at Clarence-Rockland city hall.

A retired RCMP officer and with a son in the Ottawa Police Service, Roger Benoit said he felt “very strongly” about coming to pay his respects. 

“I can relate because I’ve gone through this same situation,” he said, adding his heart goes out to Mueller’s family. 

Carol Benoit said when her husband was working night shifts as an officer, she wouldn’t be able to fall asleep until he got back home. 

“The fear of not hearing those footsteps that early in the morning … the fear that goes through you, you can’t imagine,” she said.

A man and woman sit in a car, looking out the driver's window.
Roger and Carole Benoit were among the first people who came sign the book of condolences for Mueller outside city hall in Clarence-Rockland. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

As the procession carrying Mueller’s body travelled east along Highways 417 and the 174, paramedics, firefighters, special constables and members of multiple police services watched from almost every overpass.

Canadian flags waved at Blair Road.

Two police motorcycles led the procession as it slowly approached Jeanne D’Arc Boulevard in Ottawa.

A hearse followed close behind, along with more than a dozen other police vehicles. On the overpass, firefighters stood motionless, shoulder to shoulder, along with civilians who gathered to say goodbye.

Groups of police officers stand on the sidewalk and street outside a home.
Police officers stand outside of a funeral home in Clarence-Rockland as they wait for a procession escorting Mueller’s body to arrive. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Miranda Gray heard about the procession only 45 minutes beforehand, but felt she had to come to show her respect.

“I hope its some comfort to the family to know that his sacrifice has been honoured, and I hope its a sign to other officers that we are there to support them,” she said.

Gray said she was shocked and appalled by what happened to Mueller, but also inspired by his story.

“I think for me, it hit more when I discovered that this was not the first time he was hurt in the line of duty … that’s a clear sign of how strong officers feel about serving others.”

Heidi Shellard had biked to the spot. Her hands were shaking from emotion. Even after the last firefighters had left, she remained there alone, gazing out at the highway in tears.

“All I think about is that could be one of my children,” she said.

A police funeral will be held for Mueller at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa on May 18, police said. More details will be announced once they have been finalized. 

A picture frame, a vase of fllowers and books of condolences sit on a table.
This book of condolences was set out Saturday at city hall in Clarence-Rockland. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

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