(CNN) — In a country often stereotyped as being too genteel, the Canadian city of Moncton, New Brunswick, prides itself on a special distinction: It was named the most polite.
So what happened there Wednesday seems unimaginable to some residents.
A man dressed in fatigues and carrying a rifle went on a rampage, killing three police officers and wounding two others.
On Thursday morning, the shooter was still on the loose.
Police say they know who the suspect is: 24-year-old Justin Bourque of Moncton.
On Thursday morning, police spotted Bourque at least three times in the area, but “results for apprehension have been negative,” New Brunswick Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superintendent Marlene Snowman said.
The search for the suspect is ongoing, and Snowman asked residents to continue to stay indoors and remain calm.
The victims were all officers of the RCMP, said Roger Brown, the commander for the New Brunswick RCMP.
“This is perhaps the darkest day in the history of RCMP New Brunswick,” he said.
Authorities have not released the names of the officers killed, saying they are waiting for all family members to be notified.
More than 16 hours into the manhunt, police don’t know — or haven’t disclosed — what prompted the attacks.
Police leaders appeared emotional as they conveyed the few details they had to reporters.
“As you can imagine, this is working through your worst nightmare,” Brown said.
Terror outside the window
The rampage began Wednesday evening when police responded to a report of an armed man in the north end of Moncton.
The gunman opened fire.
Three RCMP officers were shot and killed, Constable Damien Theriault told reporters.
“Two of our officers were also injured, but their lives are not threatened at this time,” he said, his voice breaking at times.
Joan MacAlpine-Stiles recalled seeing the gunman when she opened a window.
“It was really warm in the house, so we opened up the windows in the family room, and there he was going across through the back with this rifle on his shoulder,” she told CNN partner CBC.
“I said, ‘Oh my God, there he is with camouflage and the headband and a gun,’ and it looked like a bow he had with him, and I mean he was just through our backyard,” she said.
After police arrived, neighbor Vanessa Bernatchez watched with a couple of others from a living room window. She uploaded a video of the confrontation to Facebook.
“He shot him. He shot the … cop,” a man in the video exclaims. “Call 911!”
‘That could never happen here’
Moncton, a city of about 140,000 people, is about 150 kilometers (93 miles) northeast of Saint John.
The Canadian magazine Chatelaine has described Moncton as one of the best places to live and work in Canada, according to the city’s website.
In addition, Reader’s Digest recently named Moncton as the most polite city in all of Canada, the city said.
Such accolades seem to matter little now.
The violence shook Moncton and beyond.
“It’s a lot. Especially for a city like this, where you wouldn’t expect something to happen like this,” local resident Jonathan Hurshman told CTV. “You see it all in the states, and you think, ‘No, that could never happen here’ — and sure enough, it happens here.”
There were no homicides in Moncton in 2011 and 2012, and the average number of homicides per year between 2006 and 2011 was one.
In 2012, the homicide rate in Canada was 1.6 per 100,000, while in the United States, it was 4.7 per 100,000, according to U.N. statistics.
Hurshman told CTV that he tried to get close to the confrontation with his video camera, only to be brusquely turned away by police.
He didn’t see the suspect, but he heard the gunshots and saw what he thought was a police officer on the ground.
“There was a lot going through my head. It was a lot to take in, seeing something like this happen here,” he said.
Hurshman’s family would remain inside their house all day, he told CTV, but early Thursday, he witnessed neighbors who didn’t feel safe packing their cars and leaving.
As the hunt dragged into Thursday morning, police continued giving updates and warnings throughout the night.
“Shooter still believed to be in Pinehurst Subdiv. area of Moncton. Stay locked inside. Avoid area,” the RCMP’s New Brunswick office tweeted.
All entrances to the neighborhood where the attack took place were blocked off, city spokeswoman Isabelle LeBlanc said Wednesday night. Her husband had not been able to get home.
Even some buses were pulled off the road out of concern for public safety, she said.
Hospital calls in more help
As the two injured officers were being treated, a local hospital had to get reinforcements.
“We have called in extra staff and physicians at The Moncton Hospital to help deal with this situation,” said John McGarry, president and CEO of Horizon Health Network.
“We are restricting visitors to those with critically ill family members, and ask all others to refrain from visiting at this time.”
Searching while grieving
As police keep looking for the gunman, they must do so while grieving the deaths of their colleagues.
When asked how officers would push through, Constable Theriault said, “We are professional.”
Moments later, he choked up and ended the news conference.