A sea of red and blue filled the Langley Events Centre’s arena bowl on Wednesday, Oct. 4 as thousands of RCMP officers and municipal police gathered, along with family and friends, to pay tribute to Const. Frederick O’Brien, who was killed in the line of duty last month.
Following a procession featuring several thousand first responders in their dress uniforms, the funeral at the LEC began with four officers, three carrying sabres, marching in with the Guidon, the regimental flag of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to be draped at the front of the stage.
O’Brien’s coffin, draped in a Canadian flag, was led in by a chaplain, and carried by eight pallbearers in red serge.
His widow, Nicole Longacre-O’Brien, followed along with the couple’s children, each of them carrying a white rose, along with other family members and RCMP officers.
The coffin was carried through an arena that held approximately 6,000 people, the stands filled with silent first responders, including hundreds of RCMP officers in their red serge jackets and stetsons, along with municipal police from across the province, and other first responders. The family placed the roses on the coffin.
“This is a challenging moment, but this place is filled with a lot of love,” said Ridge Meadows RCMP Chaplain Greg Dalman.
He noted the presence of O’Brien’s father and sisters among the mourners, as well as colleagues who were there to support the family.
“Rick had worked his way into your hearts and lives, to leave a lasting impression,” Dalman said.
Before joining the RCMP, O’Brien was an education assistant, a mental health worker, and a youth worker. His choice to become an RCMP officer took place when he was in his 40s.
His family and friends remembered him a someone with a boundless desire to help others, especially children and the vulnerable.
He had a love of sports, especially the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Blue Jays, of sarcastic humour, and of Led Zepplin.
Family friend Stephanie Porter read a message from his wife, Nicole Longacre-O’Brien.
“How do I ever imagine life without you, when our whole life was planned around being together and watching the kids grow up?”
She mentioned that the day of his funeral was the day they had planned to leave on a long-planned vacation for just the two of them.
With their blended family of six children, he took all of her children under his wing and loved them like they were his own, Longacre-O’Brien wrote.
“We really did fit a lifetime of adventures into the last 11 and a half years,” she wrote.
“You are my forever love.”
His friend and training officer Cpl. Pete Westra remembered O’Brien as kind and compassionate, including visiting multi-barrier youth and schools in uniform.
“He cherished all the positive interactions he had with youth,” Westra said.
When a file came up involving a vulnerable victim, O’Brien would speak up quickly, but would accept in a grumpy voice, saying “Fine, I’ll take it.”
But everyone knew he loved helping those in need, Westra said.
“Rick’s loss has devastated many people,” said Westra. “It was too early, and it was senseless. It will be felt by his family, friends, the entire Ridge Meadows detachment, the RCMP, and the countless lives that he touched. The world has changed with this loss. We can’t say enough, but we want to say ‘Well done Rick. We love you.’”
“Rick was very young at heart, but he also had a heart of gold. You could always count on him,” remembered his friend Const. Ben Stephens.
He remembered that for O’Brien, policing was about letting people know they matter, and changing lives for the better.
“I was really proud of the police officer that Rick was. He taught me a lot about patience and about being a better police officer,” said Stephens.
His family remembered O’Brien’s love of gross-out humour, and his sister Cindy Niezen shared stories about his silliness and teasing.
But he was always there for his family.
“If Rick loved you, he loved you with his entire being,” Niezen said.
“He wore his uniform with pride. He served his community with excellence, because he cared about people,” remembered O’Brien’s friend Const. Dan Leclaire.
“Rick was, and always will be, a hero,” said RCMP Commissioner Mike Duheme.
He said the criminal landscape was becoming increasingly violent, and said that his goal was to protect the RCMP while they protect others.
An incident when he had been an officer for just seven months was shared by Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, BC RCMP commanding officer.
O’Brien was one of seven officers who responded to 911 calls about a home invasion in progress. They formulated a plan and entered the home in the presence of armed suspects.
The officers rescued four adults and a small child, and arrested four suspects.
O’Brien was awarded a Commissioner’s Commendation pin and and Award of Valour for his part in the successful rescue.
“He closed the gaps that day,” said McDonald.
“He spent so much of his career closing gaps. How do we now deal with the gap caused by his absence?”
He told O’Brien’s family that their “RCMP family” would be there for them always.
The funeral ended with the Last Post played by a bugler, followed by a piper playing a lament, and then the bugler playing Reville.
O’Brien was killed while serving a warrant as part of a drug investigation in Coquitlam. Two other RCMP officers with him were wounded in the same altercation. The suspect is now facing first degree murder and attempted murder charges.
Originally from Ottawa, O’Brien lived in the Willoughby neighbourhood of Langley, and spent his entire seven-year service with the RCMP in the Ridge Meadows detachment, serving Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.