A former Yarmouth County woman whose family has been on lockdown in their Moncton home since events started to unfold Wednesday night says there will now forever be a sense of “innocence lost” in the place her family calls home.
Audrey Vaughan, who lives in Moncton with her husband Jim and their son Jimmy, spoke to the Yarmouth Vanguard Thursday morning as they were still under lockdown inside their home, waiting for an RCMP manhunt of a shooting suspect to end.
The 24-year-old suspect is said to be responsible for the shooting deaths of three RCMP officers and the wounding of two others. The police released a news photograph of the suspect, showing him armed with weapons and dressed in camouflage. Since last evening the police were telling people to lock their doors and windows and stay inside their homes.
The Vaughan family’s home is located within the barricaded area, or the “red zone” as she called it. Audrey Vaughan said Thursday morning it has been a very frightening and unsettling experience.
“We’re on Evergreen, which is the very edge of the lockdown area, but I keep looking at the news and where the armoured trucks are going, if you didn’t have to take streets, it’s really not far from us,” she said. “We live across the road from the school and if we just cut through the school property and walked through people’s backyards, it’s just a few streets over.”
There was little sleep to be had in the Vaughan household overnight, she said.
“We’ve been listening to the helicopter go all night long. Each time a car went by, I’d look at the window and at one point, probably 2:30 this morning, we had a fire truck going by with a spotlight shining in the area and then a police car right behind it,” she said. “There’s just so many little patches of wooded areas and green space, and he knows the area, he’s from here. Any little noise and you’re looking out the window.”
She said people reported having seen the suspect walking through their yards.
“People started calling 911 and when the cops showed up he opened fire,” Vaughan said.
As the residential lockdown continued Thursday morning, the entire city of Moncton was in a holding pattern as well. Businesses stayed closed. Schools were closed as well.
“This morning the school bell went off and I thought, right now that sound just seems so out of place, because it’s so quiet,” Vaughan said.
She said her family had spent the night and morning just trying to stay updated with the news.
“It’s just such an unreal and uneasy feeling,” she said Thursday morning, saying she just wanted the situation to end.
“Hopefully they find him soon and there are no more casualties. Just find him, and part of me is saying dead or alive, I really don’t care at this point, and I’m usually not one of those people, but that was my thing this morning. Just find him.”
Vaughan explained that as events started to unfold Wednesday evening her teenage son Jimmie had been home alone.
“He had been out at the school and a woman pulled in and she said, ‘Get inside the school,’ she had just witnessed the shooting,” Vaughan said. “Since we live right across the road he went home and called me and said you guys have to get home.”
She and her husband were only a short distance away so she want home first. She said in the short time it took her to get home barricades were already going up, rerouting traffic.
As frightening as the situation has been for residents, Vaughan says it is incredibly sad to think about the RCMP officers who lost their lives in the line of duty, and to think about their families and their fellow RCMP members.
“My heart just broke. I do have a friend who is with the Codiac RCMP and I’ve been messaging him through the night. I just can’t imagine. When you lose a colleague but then you have to stay on duty. What these people are doing right now is just amazing because they’ve got to put that grief aside.
“We’re just hoping that he’s found soon.”
Vaughan said friends and family from Yarmouth have been sending them messages to check in on them. She said her mother called Wednesday night and it took her a while to get through because she was getting the message, ‘Please try again, all circuits are busy.’
“When was the last time you had one of those messages? Obviously the phone lines lit up,” Vaughan said. “It’s got to be hard for people who are away and wondering about those of us who are here.
"It’s just a really weird feeling," she added. "It’s like one of those innocence lost moments and Moncton, as beautiful as it is, it’s just not going to look the same again. That’s the hard part. He’s taken away something from all of us.”