A look at six Canadian police officers who were killed in recent months

A look at six Canadian police officers who were killed in recent months
THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Ontario Provincial Police
Ontario Provincial Police Const. Greg Pierzchala is shown in a handout photo. Pierzchala's death this week shocked and disturbed many members of the small Hagersville, Ont. community that sits near the Niagara Peninsula.

Six police officers have been killed in Canada since September.

Here’s a look at their cases and who they were:

Const. Grzegorz Pierzchala, 28

The Ontario Provincial Police has said Pierzchala was responding to a call for a vehicle in a ditch west of Hagersville, Ont., on Dec. 27 and was fatally shot in an ambush when he got there.

Pierzchala had been with force for just over a year and had been notified that he had passed his 10-month probation period hours before his death.

He was previously a special constable at Queen’s Park who, as a boy, dreamt of joining the police ranks.

His colleagues have remembered him as a wonderful officer with “the biggest heart of gold you could ever imagine.”

Two people have been charged with first-degree murder in his death.

Const. Shaelyn Yang, 31

Yang was killed after being stabbed in Burnaby, B.C. on Oct. 18 while trying to issue an eviction notice to a man who had been living in a tent at a local park.

During the altercation that led to her death, Yang, a mental health and homeless outreach officer for the RCMP, shot the man and he survived.

Mounties in B.C. have described Yang as a kind, caring person who was passionate about helping people living with mental health issues and experiencing homelessness.

The Independent Investigations Office, British Columbia’s police watchdog, has said there are no reasonable grounds to believe Yang committed an offence.

The man has since been charged with first-degree murder in her death.

Const. Devon Northrup, 33

South Simcoe Police Service Const. Northup was killed alongside his colleague, Morgan Russell, on Oct. 11 after they responded to a disturbance call at an Innisfil, Ont., home.

The province’s police watchdog has said neither officer drew their firearms before they were shot.

The SIU has said a 22-year-old man at the home shot the two officers and also died in the shooting.

He was remembered by his colleagues during his funeral as a funny, kind and dedicated front-line officer who served as a member of the mental health crisis outreach team.

His spouse, Const. Annie Romard, also serves in the small police force north of Toronto, and recalled how they danced in the kitchen together on the morning of the day he was shot.

“As always, before one of us walked out that door, we said: stay safe,” she said.

“Little did either of us know our lives would be changed forever.”

Const. Morgan Russell, 54

Colleagues said Russell passed over promotions and delayed his retirement to keep working on the front lines for a community he served for 33 years.

A mentor within the South Simcoe police force, Russell sat on the hiring panel that kick-started Northrup’s career.

A trained crisis negotiator, friends remembered Russell as a disciplined officer who knew the right thing to say to help people.

He also prioritized spending time with his family.

Marisa Russell, his partner, recalled during his funeral how he hugged his family before leaving for work. Later she said they got the news that they had “lost our source of strength.”

Const. Travis Gillespie, 38

Gillespie, an officer with York Regional Police, was killed in a car crash while on his way to work on Sept. 14.

Gillespie had been with the force for about two years and worked as a Metrolinx and GO Transit special constable before that. During his funeral, friends said he was also passionate about martial arts.

He was remembered as a family man with a positive outlook, a great sense of humour and a lifelong commitment to serving communities.

His colleagues also spoke of him as someone who them when they were down and helped them become better at their jobs.

His partner, Melinda LaPorte, said they spent their 26 years together “being best friends, not realizing that your soulmate was there the whole time.”

A 23-year-old Markham, Ont. man is facing impaired driving charges in connection with the collision.

Const. Andrew Hong, 48

Police have said Hong was shot in an ambush on Sept. 12 at a Mississauga Tim Hortons while he was getting coffee for his colleagues on a lunch break.

Many people who spoke at his funeral — which was attended by thousands of officers from across North America — said the fact that he was on a coffee run was indicative of his generosity.

Loved ones described Hong as a natural teacher who not only taught his children various skills, but someone who also gave valuable lessons to his trainees in the police force’s motorcycle unit.

Colleagues said he worked his “dream job” at traffic services and his wife, Jenny, said his role as a trainer was “where he belonged.”

Investigators have said the man who killed Hong later shot three people at an auto body shop in Milton, Ont. — killing two and injuring one — before being killed by police in Hamilton.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 29, 2022.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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