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'You are my hero': 2 police officers killed in Innisfil, Ont. shooting mourned at funeral

Constables Morgan Russell, 54, and Devon Northrup, 33, of the South Simcoe Police Service died in hospital after they were shot while responding to a call about a disturbance at a home on Oct. 11.

Constables Morgan Russell and Devon Northrup remembered at service in Barrie, Ont.

Const. Devon Northrup, left, and Const. Morgan Russell are shown South Simcoe Police Service handout photos. A funeral for both officers was held Thursday. (South Simcoe Police Service/The Canadian Press)

Mourning family members, police officers and other first responders filled a private funeral held Thursday for two police officers fatally shot in the line of duty last week.

Constables Morgan Russell, 54, and Devon Northrup, 33, of the South Simcoe Police Service both died in hospital after responding to a call at a home in Innisfil, Ont., located about 100 kilometres north of Toronto, on Oct. 11.

At the Sadlon Arena in Barrie, person after person walked to the podium Thursday and addressed a crowd of hundreds, in front of dual caskets enveloped in light and draped in the Canadian flag.

As each speaker rose, a picture of both men emerged as beloved community members, brothers, sons and partners.

Northrup's spouse, Annie Romard, told the crowd he was one of the bravest people she had ever met.

"And today, he would want me to be brave," she said, adding that the time the two had together was "pure joy" — even if they didn't get to grow old together as they planned.

"I will love you forever, and you are my hero," she said.

WATCH | Family members mourn slain police officers:

Family members remember 2 fallen Ontario officers for their ‘bravery’ and ‘integrity’

4 months ago
Duration 2:15
At a funeral on Thursday, family members paid sombre tributes to Constables Morgan Russell and Devon Northrup, who were fatally shot while responding to a call in Innisfil, Ont. last week.

Russell's wife of 27 years, Marisa, said she and her two daughters have lost their biggest source of strength, as well as their confidant and adviser. 

"We were so lucky to have Morgan as a part of our family unit for as long as we did, and I hope that one day we will learn to accept this crushing loss," she said.

As South Simcoe police Staff Sgt. David Phillips looked out at the crowd amassed for the service, he said that 10 days ago, he would have said his police force was 102 people strong.

"But today as I look out, I can see that I was wrong. Our policing family numbers in the thousands," he said.

The casket of South Simcoe Police Service Const. Morgan Russell is carried into a joint funeral service in Barrie, Ont., Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. Russell and fellow SSPS constable Devon Northrup were killed in a shooting in Innisfil, Ont., last week. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Acting Chief John Van Dyke said both men, who shared a dry sense of humour and loved a good laugh, gave their lives to protect their community.

Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell spoke solemnly, and called the deaths of the two men a "heartbreaking loss.

"I can only imagine the inconsolable grief their families must be experiencing," she said.

Premier Doug Ford spoke glowingly about the pair, and assured both families that the province will always be grateful for their sacrifice.

"There are no words to describe the tragedy that happened on Oct. 11," Ford said. "It was an unspeakable crime, and one that we're all struggling to come to terms with."

Residents pay respects

Ahead of the service, the funeral procession for the two officers got underway with police from across the province marching toward the stadium.

The procession moved through snowy Barrie streets, with uniformed members from the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and local and Toronto forces participating, along with paramedics and other emergency responders.

A medal, service cap and flags adorn the casket of South Simcoe Police Service Const. Morgan Russell at a joint funeral service in Barrie, Ont. on Thursday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Solemn music with bagpipes and drums filled the air during the march as people gathered along the side of the roads to observe and pay their respects.

Angela Hart was one of them. She lives in Bradford, Ont., and says South Simcoe police officers patrol her community.

"It's hard. It's a small community, and to hear of something so horrific happening … it shakes you to your core," she said.

Barrie Fire Department members prepare to raise a Canadian flag prior to the funeral procession for two South Simcoe police officers outside the Sadlon Arena in Barrie, Ont. (Christopher Drost/The Canadian Press)

Kim Pegg also came to show support to the families of the officers who died. She told CBC News her husband, Michael Pegg, was a York Regional Police officer who died of an off-duty injury in 2013.

Pegg said support from first responders and the community around them "means everything" in a time like this.

"It just feels like they're holding you up. It just gives you the strength to go on, honestly," she said.

Investigation ongoing

Russell, a 33-year veteran of the force, was a trained crisis negotiator, while Northrup was a six-year member who worked with the community mobilization and engagement unit and served as a member of the mental health crisis outreach team.

The Special Investigations Unit, which is investigating the shooting, has said the two officers did not draw their firearms before they were shot by a 22-year-old man at the home where the incident took place. The suspect was then shot and killed by a third officer who had responded to the call.

The two deaths mark three officers shot dead in Ontario in a month after the fatal shooting of Toronto Const. Andrew Hong in Mississauga, Ont. in mid-September.

Thursday's funeral comes two days after RCMP officer Const. Shaelyn Yang was fatally stabbed in Burnaby, B.C. Yang was a mental health and homeless outreach officer.

Dowdeswell said Thursday this is a "devastating time" for first responders in the province.

"I admire your courage and your resilience," the lieutenant governor of Ontario said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Carter

Reporter

Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.

With files from The Canadian Press

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