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Judge lifts publication ban, revealing details about Fredericton shooting

Police officers survey the area of a shooting in Fredericton, N.B. on Friday, August 10, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Keith Minchin
Police officers survey the area of a shooting in Fredericton, N.B. on Friday, August 10, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Keith Minchin - The Canadian Press

FREDERICTON, P.E.I. - A New Brunswick judge has lifted a publication ban on court documents in the Fredericton shooting that killed four people, revealing details about how the deadly attack unfolded.

The province's Court of Queen's Bench had issued the ban on Monday - hours after media reported on their content - imposing an information blackout on the sequence of events that claimed the lives of Bobbie Lee Wright, Donnie Robichaud and police constables Robb Costello and Sara Burns.

The documents unsealed Friday revealed the alleged gunman was wounded in the abdomen as he allegedly engaged another officer from his apartment window.

The Crown information sheet says around 7:20 a.m. last Friday, a woman called 911 to report shots fired at 237 Brookside Drive.

The document says the woman said someone was on the ground and she wasn't sure if they were alive.

Upon arrival, Costello and Burns went into the driveway while another officer who arrived moments after, Sgt. Jason Forward, stopped to ask questions of a passerby.

“Sgt. Forward then heard a couple more gunshots so he proceeded into 237 Brookside Drive in back of building C,” the document states.

“Once there, he noticed Constables Costello and Burns laying on the ground not moving. He also noticed another male on the ground and not moving, beside Const. Costello.”

A male witness told Forward that shots were coming from the top floor of the apartment building. He and another officer then entered the building, set up containment and confirmed the alleged shooter was in Apartment 11-C.

Forward later learned that another officer, described in the documents as Const. Arbeau, had engaged the shooter after he saw him point his long gun at him from the window.

“Const. Arbeau believed he had hit the shooter in the torso,” the document says.

“A little while later members of the (Fredericton Police Force Emergency Response Team) entered the apartment and took the lone occupant and shooter into custody. The suspect had been shot in the abdomen.”

Police found “items believed to be firearm(s) and ammunition” inside the apartment.

Police have said previously that Wright and Robichaud, who had just begun a romantic relationship, were shot first in the parking lot outside Robichaud's apartment building, and the two officers were shot when they responded.

Police say in the document that Wright's body was found in the passenger side of a vehicle - which was registered to Wright - and all four victims were found in and around the vehicle.

The vehicle's windshield had been blown out.

Police say Costello, Robichaud and Wright were pronounced dead at the scene while Burns was taken to hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Matthew Vincent Raymond, 48, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder. He is set to appear in court on Aug. 27.

Several media organizations had challenged the publication ban in court, and arguments were made earlier this week.

Prosecutor Cameron Gunn had told the court that the Crown was prepared to lift the blanket publication ban, but an amended order seeking a more “narrow ban” had been filed instead.

That ban would have unsealed the documents but continue to block the publication of names of individuals who have not spoken with media yet.

But David Coles, a lawyer representing several media outlets, argued there was no basis for sealing the identities of individuals named in the court documents.

He said the names would be in the public domain during the trial, and that reporters could learn the names from other sources.

In handing down her decision Friday, Justice Judy Clendening said “the evidence falls short of establishing that a ban should be granted, even in the narrow situation of the protection of the privacy of the individuals.”

“I do not find that the salutary effects of granting the publication ban strongly outweighs the deleterious impacts,” the judge said in an eight-page decision delivered orally.

On Friday, Coles called the judge's decision sound, saying that there must be compelling evidence to justify overturning the presumption of an open court and a transparent judicial process.

“This terrible tragedy I suggest leaves a community hungry for as many details as they can be given to try to understand what happened,” said Coles, who represented a consortium of media outlets including CTV, CBC, Global, Brunswick News, Postmedia and The Globe and Mail.

“So long as the details that are released won't interfere or hinder the police investigation or the prosecution in any way, then providing that information in my opinion just better informs the citizens of Fredericton and indeed all Canadians in this national interest story.”

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