Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ex-Mountie calls on Manitobans to show support

'This is close to home for me'

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Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press
ABOVE: People take part in a candlelight vigil outside RCMP headquarters in Moncton, N.B., on Friday after police arrested a man suspected of killing three RCMP officers  and wounding two others in a shootout on Wednesday night.

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Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press ABOVE: People take part in a candlelight vigil outside RCMP headquarters in Moncton, N.B., on Friday after police arrested a man suspected of killing three RCMP officers and wounding two others in a shootout on Wednesday night.

Retired RCMP officer Gordon Kowalchuk is calling on the people of Manitoba to show their support for the recovering city of Moncton.

Like many Canadians, Kowalchuk watched with bated breath as the RCMP searched day and night for shooting suspect Justin Bourque. The manhunt finally came to an end at 12:10 a.m. Friday.

Police had asked the citizens of Moncton to keep their outside lights on at all times during the search to try to help them find their suspect.

Kowalchuk said that from his 27 years of experience as a Mountie, he knows this small gesture can go a long way in helping police.

"As a police officer, when you have lights you have safety and security. When you can see what's going on around you, there's hope," he said.

Kowalchuk wants Manitobans to keep their outdoor lights on in solidarity with the rattled community of Moncton and the families of the fallen RCMP officers until the day after the funeral services of the slain Mounties.

"This is close to home for me. One of my partners from a neighbouring detachment where I worked once was Dennis Strongquill," said Kowalchuk.

Strongquill was a 20-year veteran RCMP officer who was killed while on the job in Russell, Man. in 2001.

"I know in situations like this I used to ask the question, 'Why am I doing this?' Is what I do as a police officer important? Should I keep doing this?"

"At the memorial service that we had in Steinbach, there were people that came up to me afterwards and said, 'Thank you,' and that answered all the questions. Yes, it's worthwhile. Let's go to work tomorrow and keep going."

Kowalchuk came up with the idea for everyone to leave their lights on, but doesn't want to be given any special credit.

"This isn't about me, it's about all the guys and girls working today from coast to coast," he said. "It's about the moms and dads whose kids hop in a cruiser."

jessica.botelho-urbanski@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 7, 2014 A9

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