As a memorial for fallen officer Const. Fredrick O’Brien grows outside Maple Ridge RCMP’s detachment, friends and colleagues from the communities he lived in and served say “a massive void” has been left in the wake of his death.
The 51-year-old Langley resident was killed Friday while police executed a search warrant on a Coquitlam condo complex. Several other officers were taken to hospital after an armed suspect opened fire.
Dozens of bouquets of flowers were placed outside the detachment, some with heartfelt messages for his family. Someone wrote: “May the arms of your community and country wrap you in love at this difficult time.”
“Rest easy, we’ll take it from here. — B Watch,” read another message.
Two weeks ago, Brittini Drummond witnessed first-hand the positive impact O’Brien had in Maple Ridge.
It was a hot Sept. 11 and the 35-year-old and her daughter Rikki, 3, were out for a walk along the trails behind their Silver Valley home.
“We saw Rick hiking back up the big hill back to his car and Rikki was very excited to see a police officer,” the mother told Postmedia News Saturday. “Partway up, realizing how big the hill was, he kept offering Rikki to walk to his car (himself)… and drive back to her with (some) stickers.”
The mother said she was uplifted by the encounter, which ended with her toddler and others who met the cheery officer erupting in laughter.
“The entire way back to his car he was cracking jokes and chatting with every neighbour on the street,” Drummond said. “One neighbour was warning him about the bears and other wildlife in the trails. He said (jokingly) that he wished she had warned him before he finished the trail instead of watching him hike through.
“We only met him once and he made a big impression on us,” she said.
O’Brien leaves behind his wife Nicole Longacre and their blended family of six children.
Born in Ottawa, the decorated officer joined the force later in life at 44 — but within months was bestowed a provincial commendation and medal of valour for saving the lives of a child and other victims during an armed home invasion in Maple Ridge.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth acknowledged O’Brien at the 2017 award ceremony among a group of Mounties who “placed themselves at substantial risk to enter a residence of an armed home invasion in progress to rescue the hostages and apprehend the suspects.”
The officer was described by Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, commanding officer of the B.C. RCMP, as a devoted family man, known for having a lively sense of humour.
“He was well-respected by his peers and he was loved by his community,” McDonald said in a statement Friday.
Friend Jeanette Martin told Postmedia O’Brien was someone who “had a kind and gentle way with people, something that became really useful to his community policing work.
“Now that he’s gone, there’s this massive void that’s been left here in Langley.”
Before joining the ranks of the police, the father worked as an education assistant, mental health and youth worker.
Martin, who hosted O’Brien as a speaker at the 2020 Gratitude and Appreciation Summit she co-founded, said she was in awe of his close connection with his wife.
“When Rick came home from a shift, Nicole would help him decompress,” Martin said. “She’d ask him to reflect on what he was grateful for that happened during his workday, and help him transition back into … the role of a father.”
In an interview posted to social media Saturday, O’Brien’s wife spoke to Martin about the sacrifice made by families of police officers in Canada.
“A lot of the people don’t generally, they almost take it for granted, that these guys and ladies are out there serving and protecting the community and not realizing what they’re sacrificing, what their families are sacrificing to do so,” said Longacre.
“Especially with my husband being a police officer and just kinda the craziness of times, I hope that people, you know, the general public will have a big, great appreciation for the role that they serve in our communities.”
The National Police Federation, which acts as a union for the RCMP, launched an online fundraising campaign Friday to raise $10,000 for the O’Brien family’s upcoming expenses. By Saturday afternoon, more than $44,400 had been donated.
O’Brien was known to visit Maple Ridge schools, regularly using his free time to volunteer at food drives and sporting events in the community, said his colleague, Supt. Wendy Mehat of Ridge Meadows RCMP.
“Rick’s contribution to his work and his fellow team members at this detachment was immeasurable,” Mehat told media Friday.
— With files from Joe Ruttle, Susan Lazaruk and Jason Payne
Bookmark our website and support our journalism: Don’t miss the news you need to know — add VancouverSun.com and TheProvince.com to your bookmarks and sign up for our newsletters here.
You can also support our journalism by becoming a digital subscriber: For just $14 a month, you can get unlimited, ad-lite get unlimited, ad-lite access to The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun | The Province.