An officer who worked with outreach and mental health teams and a veteran constable who was a trained crisis negotiator were identified Wednesday as the two police officers who died after a shooting in Innisfil, Ont. – an event that left residents of the quiet community in shock.
The South Simcoe Police Service said the officers had responded to a disturbance at a home in the town north of Toronto around 8 p.m. Tuesday when the shooting took place.
"Words cannot describe our grief," acting police chief John Van Dyke said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon. "This is a heartbreaking time for our police service, the families impacted, our emergency services personnel and our communities."
Van Dyke identified the officers as Const. Devon Northrup, 33, and Const. Morgan Russell, 54.
Northrup was a six-year member of the service and worked with the community mobilization and engagement unit. He also served as a member of the mental health crisis outreach team and the emergency response unit. He is survived by his partner, parents and many friends, police said.
Russell was with the force for 33 years. He was a trained crisis negotiator and was assigned to uniform patrol. He is survived by his wife and two teenage children, said Van Dyke, who grew emotional for a moment while describing the officer.
"This is personal for me. I went to police college with Morgan 33 years ago," he said.
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Ontario's police watchdog, which is investigating, said the two officers were involved in a shooting with a 23-year-old man inside the home they were called to. The young man died at the home, the Special Investigations Unit said.
"There was an exchange of gunfire between two officers and the man," said SIU spokeswoman Kristy Denette. "The investigation is ongoing."
Denette said police were called to the home by family members at the residence and that the 23-year-old man lived there.
She said it's believed he used a "rifle-type" gun, although she later said she could not confirm details of the weapon. The SIU later said the gun was an SKS semi-automatic rifle.
The SIU said it was not identifying the man since his family had not consented to the release of that information. His autopsy was set for Friday.
A source close to the investigation, who was not authorized to speak publicly, identified the man as Chris Doncaster.
Police said Northrup died at a local hospital while Russell died after being airlifted to a Toronto trauma centre in critical condition.
Yellow police tape cordoned off a portion of the street where the shooting took place. Several police vehicles could be seen in the area on Wednesday morning and a police helicopter was seen flying overhead.
John Ridge, who has lived in the area for 26 years, said he was heading to bed Tuesday night when he saw two police cars rush by his house with their lights on.
"Woke up this morning and two police officers were shot 10 doors from my house," the 66-year-old said.
"I'm sickened by it. These guys go out and put their lives on the line for us every single day. And this is the kind of thanks they get?"
Ridge and other neighbours said an elderly couple who had an adult grandson lived in the house where the shooting took place.
"I had just met the grandfather, really nice guy," Ridge said. "To have a police officer shot in your neighbourhood is just not acceptable."
Cindy Le, who lives in a home across the street from where the shooting took place, said she had heard sirens on Tuesday night.
"It's terrible," she said of what had happened. "It’s sad. Really sad."
Le, who has lived in the area for seven years, said the residential neighbourhood is typically a quiet, safe one. "I love the neighbourhood," the 53-year-old said.
Archibald Torrance, who also lives in the area, said he was shocked by what had taken place.
"I don't think it's right," the 82-year-old said. "These policemen are doing a job."
The mayor of Innisfil said the community was more than devastated by the officers' deaths.
"South Simcoe police are beloved in our communities. So well respected by everyone and well-loved," said Lynn Dollin. "We're just broken."
Dollin said it would take a long time to process the community's loss.
"They're not just police officers, they're friends," she said, noting that she played in a golf league with Russell.
"This is not something that we are accustomed to here. It's a safe place and this was a shock to all of us."
Premier Doug Ford visited the South Simcoe police detachment in Innisfil, Ont., on Wednesday afternoon to show his support to the force members.
"It's very sad. It's senseless tragedy. My heart bleeds for his family, their families, I should say, the women and men that serve every single day," Ford said.
"I come from a policing family and the sacrifices they make: They're running into danger as everyone else is running out."
Lana Heyd was among dozens of town residents who came to put flowers near the entrance of the police detachment.
"It's just sad when two innocent people's lives are taken trying to save everybody else, trying to look after our community. And this is their payback?" she said. "It's brutal."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also sent his condolences. He said later Wednesday that the federal Liberal government was working to step up on gun control, noting a ban on assault weapons and a freeze on purchasing handguns among recent measures brought in.
The deaths of the two officers came a month after a Toronto police officer, Const. Andrew Hong, was killed on Sept. 12 while on break at a Tim Hortons in Mississauga, Ont.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 12, 2022.