Two officers with the South Simcoe Police Service were fatally shot inside a home in Innisfil, Ont., on Tuesday, in a confrontation that also left the 23-year-old suspect dead.
“Words cannot describe our grief,” Acting Police Chief John Van Dyke said at a news conference Wednesday.
He identified the two slain officers as Constable Morgan Russell, 54, and Constable Devon Northrup, 33.
The officers had been dispatched to a home in Innisfil, a community of about 43,000 just south of Barrie, Ont., at around 8 p.m. on Tuesday after a resident of the house requested assistance with a family member.
Few details were released about what occurred inside the home or what exactly prompted the call.
The province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said neither Constable Russell nor Constable Northrup had drawn their firearms when they were fatally shot. A third officer who was also at the house then exchanged gunfire with the suspect, who was armed with an SKS semi-automatic rifle, the SIU said. The suspect was pronounced dead on scene.
Both wounded officers were rushed to hospital, but neither survived.
The SIU investigates any case involving police that results in serious injury, death or allegations of sexual assault, and once the agency is involved there are legal limits on what the responding police force can publicly say.
A spokesperson for the watchdog agency, Kristy Denette, said an autopsy of the 23-year-old man is scheduled for Friday.
The SIU did not release the suspect’s name, explaining that the family did not provide consent.
A police source identified the suspect as Christopher Doncaster. The Globe and Mail is not naming the source because they were not authorized to publicly release the name.
The Canadian Armed Forces confirmed that a man with the same name and date of birth was enrolled from May, 2020, to December, 2020. He was a private with no deployment history.
Facebook photos posted by Mr. Doncaster’s grandmother show an enrolment certificate in his name from May, 2020, and photos of the young man in military fatigues from that November.
Constable Northrup had been with the police service for six years and was assigned to the community mobilization and engagement unit. Acting Chief Van Dyke said he is survived by his partner, his parents and “his many close friends within the service and in the community.”
He said Constable Northrup had also served as a member of the police service’s mental-health crisis outreach and support team, and the emergency response unit.
Constable Russell, assigned to uniform patrol, had been with the service 33 years and is survived by his partner and two adult children.
“This is personal for me,” Acting Chief Van Dyke said of the loss. “I went to Police College with Morgan.”
He acknowledged that the community has many questions about what transpired – ”as do we.”
Acting Chief Van Dyke said the service has requested the assistance of the neighbouring York Regional Police to conduct an investigation into the case.
“We ask for your patience and privacy as we attempt to come to terms with the loss of these two beloved members of our family.”
Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin said the community is devastated. “We’re just broken. Our hearts are broken for the families and for our police colleagues. It’s a dark day and it’s going to take a long time to process this,” she told reporters on Wednesday.
South Simcoe is the third Ontario police service to lose an officer in the last month. On Sept. 12, Toronto Police Constable Andrew Hong was shot and killed in what police described as an unprovoked attack at a Tim Hortons in Mississauga – the first in a string of shootings that also left two others dead, including the suspect, and three people injured. York Regional Police Constable Travis Gillespie also died last month, on Sept. 14, in a head-on car crash on his way to work.
With a report from Stephanie Chambers