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 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’m in Rockland, Ontario, where a long line of police officers is waiting on the street, in front of a funeral home, for the body of OPP Sergeant Eric Mueller to arrive from Ottawa. He died on duty on Thursday in nearby Bourget. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ontario?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ontario</a> <a href=”https://t.co/70LVnT1J66″>pic.twitter.com/70LVnT1J66</a>
‘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.
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.
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.