In the wake of shootings in Moncton last week, an Annapolis Valley family is in mourning.
Const. Dave Ross, the youngest of the three RCMP members killed June 4, leaves behind his wife Rachael, his 19-month-old son Austin and another baby due in three months. Rachael, formerly Vander Ploeg, grew up in the Sheffield Mills area.
“It was a tragic loss,” Rachael’s brother Adrian Vander Ploeg told the Advertiser. “Not just Dave, but the other officers, as well. I am and will be heartbroken for my family and the other families that (are) torn apart.”
Vander Ploeg said his brother-in-law “was an all-around great person.
“When he chose to do something he would give it his all. Whether that be loving his family, which he did so much, (or) perfecting his craft as an RCMP officer and dog handler. “
Ross, a Victoriaville, Que., native, graduated from the RCMP Training Academy in 2007 and was posted to J Division, New Brunswick, where he worked with the Codiac Detachment as a general duty officer and then as a police dog services handler
“He loved his dogs. I met them all as Dave was proud to show them,” Vander Ploeg said, adding his brother-in-law also loved outdoor pursuits, including hunting, fishing and camping.
“I wish I had spent more time with Dave, but I guess I took for granted that I'd have him as a brother for a long time to come and watch his family grow within our own.”
Rachael’s aunt, Catherine Visser, told Prince Edward Island’s Guardian newspaper she is devastated by her the death of her nephew-in-law.
“Rachael is much like the daughter that I don’t have and she’s much like a sister to our sons. We have a very close connection,” Visser said, adding she was looking forward to a summertime visit from the couple.
As a dog handler, Dave was always prepared to get the call to come into work, she said. Last Wednesday night, his phone rang and he responded to a report of a gunman in a suburban neighbourhood of the New Brunswick city.
Visser said Dave went to the scene, where he was shot twice through the window of his vehicle.
“He didn’t get a chance to get out. He never got out of the vehicle.’’
A 24-year-old Moncton man was arrested 30 hours later after an intense manhunt that drew resources from all over the Maritimes. Justin Bourque is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and two of attempted murder in the shootings of Dave Ross and four fellow officers.
Visser said her niece and nephew-in-law had had many conversations about the dangers associated with police work and they both knew something could happen.
“Yet, he went to work every day thinking that was never going to happen to him and his wife said he’s always very careful,’’ Visser says, her voice trailing off. “These things still can happen...
“He was very dedicated to his work and his family. He was just a wonderful, all-around guy. You couldn’t have asked for a better officer, a better family man,” she added. “He said very recently after their fourth (wedding) anniversary ‘I couldn’t be any happier.’”
Vander Ploeg statement echoed his aunt’s comments.
“He died doing what he loved and he knew that he was surrounded by family and friends that loved him.”