Two South Simcoe police officers killed in a Tuesday night shooting have been identified as constables Devon Northrup and Morgan Russell.
Teary-eyed officers filed into Innisifl Town Hall on Wednesday for an afternoon news conference regarding the shooting that took place on Somers Boulevard.
The two officers were killed in the line of duty while attending to a call for a “disturbance” on the quiet Innisfil street at around 8 p.m.
“We know their names. We know each other. They’re not just police officers; they’re friends,” said Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin.
“This tragedy sends a devastating impact across the communities of Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil,” added Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Rob Keffer. “These two beloved members of the SSPS have dedicated their careers to protecting our communities, both exemplary individuals who have given so much of their time to public service.
"My thoughts, prayers, and support are with the family, SSPS family, and friends of Const. Devon Northrup and Const. Morgan Russell, as well as to our community members," said Keffer.
Residents say the 23-year-old male suspect lived in the home with his grandparents and appeared to be troubled.
An emotional John Van Dyke, interim police chief of South Simcoe Police, said the incident is personal for him, having attended police college with Russell 33 years ago.
“Words cannot describe our grief,” said Van Dyke. “Const. Northrup was 33 years old and a six-year member of the service currently assigned to the Community Mobilization and Engagement Unit. Const. Northrup is survived by his partner, his parents and his many close friends. He also served as a member of our mental health Crisis Outreach and Support Team and the Emergency Response Unit.
“The second officer who was transported to Toronto, Const. Russell, was aged 54 and a 33-year veteran of the service. He was assigned to uniform patrol and was a trained crisis negotiator. He is survived by his wife and two teenage children. This is a heartbreaking time for our police service, the families impacted, our emergency services personnel and our communities.”
With Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) invoking its mandate, Van Dyke wasn’t able to provide information regarding the suspect or what transpired on Somers Boulevard.
“Our immediate focus is to support our members and their grieving families,” he said. “We recognize the community has questions, as do we. We have requested York Regional Police to conduct an investigation into the circumstances of this incident. We must acknowledge that Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit has invoked its mandate. I am therefore limited in what information we can share. We ask for your patience and privacy as we attempt to come to terms with the loss of two members of our family.”
In answering questions after South Simcoe police’s press conference, the SIU confirmed it is investigating the death of the suspect, but would not confirm the identity of the suspect.
“This occurred after an exchange of gunfire with two South Simcoe Police Service officers,” said Kristy Denette, an SIU spokesperson. “Consent has to be provided by the family and in this circumstance the man’s family has not consented to the release of his name. The man’s autopsy is scheduled for Friday and until that time the investigation is ongoing.”
The SIU’s forensic team is in the process of collecting evidence at the scene to confirm the circumstances of the suspects death.
“There was an exchange of gunfire in the residence,” said Denette. “There was a call about a disturbance and the two officers responded.”
The SIU did confirm the call about the disturbance was made by a family member in the house.
Crimes like this in Innisfil are almost unheard of. The last officer killed in the line of duty occurred in 2002, when Const. Alan Kuzmich was killed while investigating a motorcycle theft.