A manhunt was underway Thursday in the eastern Canadian province of New Brunswick after a shooting rampage left three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers dead and two others wounded.
Authorities were searching for the suspect, Justin Bourque, 24, who was wearing camouflage and carrying two rifles late Wednesday when witnesses say he began firing on officers in Moncton.
"Please continue to be vigilant.If you see anything call 911.Please do NOT post police movements on social networks." police said in a mid-morning tweet aimed at residents of Moncton, a city of almost 70,000 people less than 180 miles from the Maine border.
Earlier, New Brunswick police Commissioner Roger Brown tweeted: "It has been perhaps the darkest day in the history of the New Brunswick RCMP."
Mounted Police Constable Damien Theriault said Bourque is considered armed and dangerous. No motive for the shootings was released.
"I lost three friends," Theriault told Canada's CBC News. "And now we need to pull together and locate this individual as quickly as possible to ensure everyone's safety. "We are professionals and we have a job to do right now. We will have time to grieve after."
Schools and most public buildings were closed, city buses stopped rolling and mail wasn't being delivered as the manhunt dragged on Thursday. The police agency was repeatedly tweeting Thursday: "If you live in the marked area stay inside / lock doors. Roads blocked. Traffic disrupted. Avoid area"
Daniel St. Louis, a commercial photographer, told the Associated Press he came upon the scene shortly after the shootings. "I walked over and I saw two feet, facing the street, toes up," said St. Louis, 51. "I realized, 'Oh my God. There's somebody down.' As I got close, I realized it was an officer."
Will Njoku, 42, told the Toronto Star he was emptying the dishwasher just before 8 p.m. local time when he first heard shots. He at first thought the sounds were firecrackers as youths celebrate the arrival of warm weather.
"This whole night's been horrible for me, my family, the entire city," the father of three young boys told the Star. "It seemed like we were in danger."
New Brunswick Premier David Alward issued a statement saying he was "shocked and saddened" by the ongoing incident.
"On behalf of all New Brunswickers, I would like to my thoughts and prayers to those affected," Alward said. "I would ask New Brunswickers, particularly those in areas identified by police, to follow the situation as it develops and follow the advice of police."
Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc issued an impassioned plea for residents to stay indoors and he expressed condolences regarding the slain officers.
"This is a very trying evening in our community, please remain calm but vigilant," LeBlanc said in a statement released on Facebook. "I am confident that the RCMP will soon restore peace and order."
Gun violence, particularly against police, is rare in Canada. In 2005, four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers were killed in the western Canadian province of Alberta in what authorities called the deadliest attack on Canadian police officers in 120 years. They had been investigating a farm in Mayerthrope, a hamlet in Alberta, when a man shot them. The gunman was killed.
Contributing: John Bacon