'Their ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten': Thousands at funeral for 2 Fredericton police officers

'Their ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten': Thousands at funeral for 2 Fredericton police officers

More than 1,000 first responders and family members have filled the Aitken University Centre in Fredericton for the regimental funeral of Constables Robb Costello, 45, and Sara Burns, 43, today — just over a week after a shooting that also claimed the lives of two civilians.

The two police officers were killed while responding to a report of at 237 Brookside Dr. on the city's north side the morning of Aug. 10.

Costello was a 20-year veteran and father of four and Burns was a married mother of three who became a constable two years ago.

The funeral service isn't open to the public because the Aitken University Centre arena can only accommodate about 4,300 people.

It opened with Fredericton police Const. Debbie Stafford, acting as master of ceremonies, noting, "Their ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten."

Dignitaries in Saturday's regimental funeral include:

Priority was given to the families of the fallen officers, Fredericton police and other law enforcement personnel.

But that didn't stop thousands of people from lining the rain-swept streets of Fredericton along the route of a funeral procession to honour the two officers ahead of the regimental funeral in New Brunswick's capital.

The procession of first responders — including members of the Fredericton Police Force, RCMP and agencies from across the country — started at noon AT at Fredericton High School, and moved along Priestman Street to Regent Street, down to Montgomery Street and across to the University of New Brunswick campus.

Grimsby, a 10-year-old standardbred racehorse partly owned by Burns, followed behind the hearses.

The horse was led by Grimsby's co-owner, Stefan Decourcey, a constable with the Fredericton police.

CBC News broadcast the procession and is now broadcasting the funeral service until about 2 p.m. — on both CBC News Network and the main network, on radio and online here, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Costello and Burns were the first on the scene and gunned down as they approached civilians Donnie Robichaud, 42, and his girlfriend, Bobbie Lee Wright, 32.

Costello and his partner, Jackie McLean, have two children each they brought into their relationship. Burns served as an auxiliary officer for two years before becoming a constable.

First responders come to Fredericton

Despite heavy rain in the city, about 1,500 first responders from across the country could be seen trickling into the Fredericton High School gymnasium ahead of the procession.

Annie Gregoire, acting superintendent for the Ottawa Paramedic Service, said the funeral will be a stark reminder of the dangers that first responders can face on the job.

But she said the day will be about being there for one another as first responders, and ensuring people are not alone — especially the family of the fallen officers.

"This tragedy has united a lot of us in the first responder community all across the nation — and actually all across the continent as well," Gregoire said.

"The most important thing in times like these is to get together to support each other and pay our respects for the family and the people who are grieving."

This is the second time in four years that first responders have gathered together in New Brunswick to pay tribute to fallen officers.

Three Mounties were killed and two others badly injured in Moncton in June 2014 after a gunman opened fire in the city about 180 kilometres east of Fredericton. from across Canada.

Residents gather outside

Among those enduring heavy rain and cold weather to line the funeral procession route to show their support was Rick Lingley, who was holding back tears as he stood beside his wife, Ann.

His son has served as a police officer with Fredericton police.

"Every day they put their life on the line for us," Lingley​ said before the procession started.

He said he's proud of the City of Fredericton for rallying behind the police force during such a difficult time.

"When this happened, it really hit home," said the Fredericton resident.

"These are really good people, everybody that serves. They're human beings."

Sandy Adshade, general manager at Mary Brown's, a restaurant in a strip mall along the parade route on Regent Street, said she and her staff planned to watch from the sidewalk as the regimental parade passes.

Adshade said she knows people in the community who were personally affected by last week's shooting.

"It's been a tragedy," she said. "It's been a very hard week … it's not going away any time soon."

Adshade said she has been trying to focus on work throughout the week, but it has been hard.

"We try to carry on but we need to remember and stick together. It's been a very long week and it's just as fresh as it was a week ago."

2 live stream viewing areas

The funeral service is being live streamed for the public in Fredericton at two locations:

Some roads are closed and there will be limited parking "and movement" in the area.

The accused in the shooting, , 48, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 27.