Slain Ottawa officer honoured at massive funeral
Last Updated: Thursday, January 7, 2010 | 10:19 PM ET
An Ottawa police officer killed in the line of duty last week was honoured Thursday during a ceremonial procession and a funeral attended by thousands of police officers from across North America.
Const. Ireneusz (Eric) Czapnik, 51, was remembered as a devoted husband, father, friend and police officer at a large funeral in the Ottawa Civic Centre at Lansdowne Park Thursday afternoon.
Speaking at the service, Ottawa police Chief Vern White described Czapnik as a hard worker and a dedicated professional.
"Eric was a man of honour serving the community, a man of passion serving his family and a man of principle serving his team," White said in his eulogy.
Police officers, civilian police members, firefighters and paramedics from Canada and the U.S., as well as local, federal and provincial politicians, city councillors and some senators packed the bleachers of the venue, which holds 8,000 people.
Large photos of Czapnik and dozens of colourful wreaths served as a backdrop for his casket, which was draped with a white police flag.
Oldest recruit in force's history
Czapnik was the Ottawa Police Service's oldest recruit ever, joining at age 48, prompting questions about why he was being recruited, White recalled.
"The response: 'I've never seen someone want something so much in life. I know that he will give his best.' And he did."
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty also spoke at the ceremony, thanking Czapnik's family, including his wife and four children, for his service.
"Const. Czapnik was a hero because of what he chose to do in life everyday. As a police officer, when he left the house, he didn't know what kind of risks or dangers the day would bring, but he willingly accepted those risks because he cared about our community."
Luckasz Galaska, Czapnik's stepson, said his father did the work of the "unselfish" and was devoted to serving others.
"Without any words ever needing to be spoken, I have learned what kind of father I want to be," Galaska said.
Thousands of police, firefighters, paramedics and local dignitaries packed the bleachers at the Ottawa Civic Centre for Czapnik's funeral. (CBC)Czapnik was stabbed to death on Dec. 29 outside the civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital, where he had been sitting in his cruiser taking notes.
Czapnik, who had been with the Ottawa Police Service since 2007, is only the second Ottawa police officer to be killed while on duty in more than 25 years.
Kevin Gregson, a suspended RCMP officer from Saskatchewan, has been charged with first-degree murder.
Members of the Ottawa Police Service in navy blue uniforms led the procession from Carleton University shortly before noon. A block of RCMP officers in red serge followed in a gesture of solidarity, trailed by the Ottawa Paramedic Service, dressed in green.
Some of their members were on scene at the time of Czapnik's slaying and intervened to subdue the accused killer. The sombre procession stretched for approximately two kilometres, CBC's Evan Dyer estimated, and was marked by the sound of boots hitting the pavement in unison, drumming to keep the beat, and the occasional bagpipe tune.
Hundreds of people lined the streets to pay their respects as the blocks of coloured uniformed men and women marched in formation. Among them were students from Hopewell Avenue Public School, who unfurled a large handwritten banner reading, "Thank you to Eric Czapnik and every police that keep us safe."
Thousands of police officers and paramedics marched along Ottawa's streets on their way to Lansdowne Park. (CBC)The hearse arrived at Lansdowne Park around 1 p.m. ET, passing under a huge Canadian flag, two storeys in length, held up by two cranes. Ottawa Police Service pallbearers carried the coffin into the arena an hour later, placing it in front of dozens of floral wreaths.
A huge screen was set up in the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park, close to the Ottawa Civic Centre, so members of the public could watch the televised funeral. Two overflow rooms were also set up to accommodate the crowds.
Czapnik's body was carried past the headquarters of the Ottawa Police Service slowly in its hearse after the funeral so colleagues who were unable to attend could say goodbye.
Family members were expected to attend a private ceremony at Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa after the funeral.Students from Hopewell Avenue Public School stand along the street to honour Eric Czapnik. (Steve Fischer/CBC)
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