The community is in shock after police identify 2 police officers killed in Innisfil, Ontario. filming
A small community north of Toronto is in shock Wednesday after police identified an officer who worked with outreach and mental health teams and a veteran officer trained in hostage negotiations as victims of a fatal shooting Tuesday.
The South Simcoe Police Service has identified Const. Morgan Russell and Const. Devon Northrup as the officers killed.
“Words cannot describe our grief,” Acting Chief John Van Dyke said.
Van Dyke said officers responded to a call at a home near 25th Sideroad and 9th Line shortly before 8 p.m. Tuesday. Police did not say what the original call was for.
According to the police, two officers were shot while inside the house. A 23-year-old suspect was also shot and killed. Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said it would not release the identity of the suspect at this time.
CBC Toronto has learned that Donna Rose Doncaster, 76, and Glen Doncaster, 83, are the owners of the home where the shooting took place. Their grandson, Christopher Joseph Doncaster, whose 23rd birthday falls on October 23, lives with them.
Police said Northrup died at a local hospital while Russell died after being airlifted to a Toronto trauma center in critical condition.
Northrup, 33, was a six-year service member assigned to the Community Mobilization and Engagement Unit. He was also a member of the Mental Health Crisis Awareness Team and Crisis Response Unit. He is survived by his partner, parents and close friends of the service, Van Dyke said.
Russell, 54, was a 33-year-old service veteran and skilled crisis negotiator assigned to a uniform patrol. He is survived by his wife and two adult children.
Van Dyke said Russell’s death was “personal” to him.
“I went to police academy with Morgan 33 years ago,” the acting chief said, his voice wavering.
“This is a heartbreaking moment for our police department.”
The service’s immediate goal is to support its members and grieving families, Van Dyke said. A community vigil is being held Wednesday evening at the Innisfil Community Church in honor of Russell and Northrup.
The service asked York Regional Police to conduct an investigation, adding that the Ontario Special Investigations Unit invoked its warrant.
“So I’m very limited in what information we can share,” Van Dyke said.
SIU and York Regional Police Investigate
The SIU is currently investigating the incident, which occurs when a person is seriously injured or killed as a result of a police interaction. In a news release, the Ontario police watchdog said it has assigned a total of nine investigators to the case.
The SIU said preliminary information said officers were called to a home “for a disturbance.” SIU spokeswoman Kristy Denette said Wednesday that police were called by family members to the residence.
They exchanged gunfire with a 23-year-old man who died at the scene, according to the SIU. He later said the weapon used by the suspect was an SKS semi-automatic rifle.
Denette says the watchdog will not release the identity of the 23-year-old suspect unless his family agrees to make it public.
“In these circumstances, the man’s family did not consent to the release of his name,” Denette said.
The man’s autopsy is scheduled for Friday, she said, and until then the investigation is ongoing, with York Regional Police conducting a separate investigation into the shooting.
The two South Simcoe officers are the third and fourth officers to be killed in the province in the past month.
On September 12, Toronto Police Const. Andrew Hong was killed in what police called an “ambush” in a series of shootings that left two dead and three injured.
On September 14, York Regional Police Const. Travis Gillespie died at the scene of a frontal car accident.
The two gendarmes were buried at the end of last month.
Neighbors, city shaken by gunfire
Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin said Simcoe South police are “loved” in smaller towns like Innisfil. The city is just south of Barrie and is home to over 43,300 people.
“To say the community is devastated would be an understatement,” Dollin said.
“It’s a dark day and it’s going to take us a long time to process this, but we’ll be there to support our colleagues at South Simcoe Police and we’ll be there to support the families and friends affected.”
Michele Bannister has lived on the streets for 26 years. She told CBC News that a couple lived in the house where the shooting happened with their grandchildren, whom they raised. Bannister described the couple as “very good people”. She says the 23-year-old shot by police was their grandson. CBC News has not independently confirmed this.
“We are heartbroken,” said Bannister, who was watching TV with his daughter Brelyn when they first heard the sirens.
The mother and daughter said they saw the man’s older sister – who had already moved out – on Tuesday night, shouting: “He’s my brother”.
“It was, like, straight out of a movie,” Brelyn said.
Kevin, a neighbor whom CBC News has agreed to identify only by first name due to privacy concerns, said he first thought he heard fireworks on Tuesday night before realizing he was actually acted half a dozen shots.
“I walked out…and it was pandemonium,” he said.
Kevin says he’s seen police tending to injured people and he’s seen those people coming off the streets in ambulances.
“It was quite traumatic,” he said, noting that the street is generally “very safe” and everyone takes care of each other.
“It’s going to be tough for our little community here,” he said. “Everyone is going to be in shock.”
Premier Doug Ford visited the South Simcoe Police Detachment in Innisfil on Wednesday afternoon to show his support.
“It’s very sad. It’s a senseless tragedy,” Ford said.
“I come from a family of police officers and the sacrifices they make: they are in danger while everyone is on the run.”
Police departments in different jurisdictions, as well as the OPP, Toronto Paramedic Services and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police took to social media to express their condolences.
“I offer our deepest condolences to the families of these two deceased police officers,” Toronto Police Chief James Ramer wrote.