Const. David Wynn memorialized in letter from 11-year-old student

Thousands are honouring the Alberta Mountie killed outside Edmonton earlier this month - among them, Declan Cayanga, an 11-year-old boy that Const. David Wynn met while working with his school.

RCMP officers popular with students, involved with school's D.A.R.E. program

RAW: Fallen Mountie remembered

9 years ago
Duration 10:01
Declan Cayanga talks about his connection with Const. David Wynn, who led the D.A.R.E. program at his school

There are some lessons 11-year-old boys don’t need to learn.

Not now.

Not yet.

There is plenty of time, later, to figure out the hard truths. The ones that life, eventually, must teach us all.

Like this one: Sometimes, the hero dies.

Declan Cayanga and his classmates at Keenooshayo School know that now.

On Monday, while much of the nation watches on television, these children who lost a piece of their innocence last week will stand and sing their school for a dead hero who touched their lives, for a man who helped prepare them for so many of the lessons yet to come.

RCMP Const. David Wynn died doing his job. Shot in the head last weekend by a man whose criminal past and numerous jail sentences seemed to have taught him in, in the end, nothing at all.

Canada’s latest fallen hero will be laid to rest later today at a regimental funeral in St. Albert, Alta. About 2,500 RCMP officers are expected to attend. As are several thousand members of the public.

I said I was angry that somebody could do something so evil to somebody so kind.- Declan Cayanga

Most of them never knew Const. Wynn.

Declan and his school friends were among the lucky ones who did.

Wynn was well known at the school. He was the resource officer there and ran the D.A.R.E. program. The initials stand for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, but what the program really does is try to teach Grade 6 students some lessons about making good choices. Lessons, mostly, for the future.

"He was good in dealing with the class," Declan says. "He would joke around sometimes, but not all the time."

Declan'sclass held its D.A.R.E. graduation in December. Wynn was there, of course, wearing his iconic red uniform jacket.

Each student wrote an essay, and that day a couple of them were read aloud in class. The theme they were given was this: Start with the words "I’ll be my own hero by …," then fill in the rest with a pledge.

Writing a letter for Const. Wynn

Last Saturday, word began to filter through St. Albert that something terrible had happened.

"I'm so sad to see him go." Letters from Declan Cayanga and his family, left for the relatives of Const. David Wynn. (CBC)
"I heard some police officers were shot," Declan says. "Then later on in the day, my mom said it was Constable Wynn and someone else."

He didn’t believe her. Not at first.

Vince Cayanga says he and his wife had to sit down with their children that day and explain what had happened. That Const. Wynn had been shot, along with another officer named Derek Bond.

Declan spent some time that weekend texting with his friends.

He’s affected scores of young people coming out my son’s school with his D.A.R.E. program. Dozens and dozens of kids are going to make right choices because of the impact he’s made.- Vince Cayanga, father of Declan

"I said to think about Constable Wynn, and hope he gets better. I knew that he was hurt bad."

What Declan didn’t know then was that Wynn would never get better, that he would never regain consciousness, that he would eventually be taken off life support.

As the days passed, as the grim news spread, as the sad reality set in, an 11-year-old boy and his classmates were forced to face the awful truth. That not all stories have happy endings. That heroes sometimes die.

"During times like this, we all deal with grieving and coping in different ways," says Vince Cayanga. "I knew how frustrated my son was."

Declan told his parents he wanted to write a letter to Wynn’s family. "I feel bad for them," he says. "I would like to help them feel better."

So he sat down with a pen and put his feelings on paper.

Declan Cayanga and his father Vince stand before the memorial in front of the St. Albert RCMP detachment. (CBC)
"I wrote that Constable Wynn was really nice to me and my friends. And that he helped us with school a lot. And that I would like to make him, kind of, live on, with using the stuff he taught us.

"I said I was angry that somebody could do something so evil to somebody so kind."

Declan and his family took the letter, and some flowers, to the St. Albert RCMP detachment, and added their little part to a street-front memorial that has been growing bigger and bigger over the past several days.

To help students deal with the tragedy, Keenooshayo School brought in grief counsellors and therapy dogs. Declan says that helped, a little.

Later today, wearing D.A.R.E. T-shirts, Declan and some of his classmates will sing their school song for Const. Wynn. Fittingly, the song is called We Can Make a Difference.

"I didn’t get to personally know Constable Wynn," says Vince Cayanga. "But his impact on my children, on my son and on my family, was actually great. It’s one thing to say it was his duty to protect and serve. But what I think a lot of people don’t realize is, the breadth and depth ... that he's had an impact on a lot of people. He’s affected scores of young people coming out my son’s school with his D.A.R.E. program. Dozens and dozens of kids are going to make right choices because of the impact he’s made.

"A part of Constable Wynn will be going into the future."

This time the hero died. But his memory will live on in the hearts of his family, his fellow officers, his fellow Canadians. And the lessons he taught will live on in the heart of an 11-year-old boy who may have, without knowing it, summed up this tragedy better than anyone else.

"He was a good person," Declan says, "and we should remember him."