I held back on posting this, pending further information, which has come to light:
Mountie charged with first-degree murder, robbery in slaying of Ottawa police officer. Kevin Gregson, 43, was charged with first-degree murder and robbery Tuesday night.
By Meghan Hurley, Canwest News Service December 29, 2009
OTTAWA — The Ottawa police officer fatally stabbed early Tuesday morning was a Polish immigrant who had served with the department for three years after joining the force late in life.
Const. Ireneusz "Eric" Czapnik, 51, was sitting in his police cruiser outside the emergency department of the Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus at about 4:30 a.m. when he was attacked and stabbed.
The suspect arrested Tuesday in the stabbing death is believed to be an RCMP officer, Kevin Gregson, who has a history of violence. Police charged Gregson, 43, with first-degree murder and robbery Tuesday night.
"Like his father, (Czapnik) was proud to be a police officer and enjoyed serving this community in particular," said Ottawa police Chief Vern White at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Czapnik immigrated to Canada from Poland in 1990 where his father had served as a police officer for more than 30 years, according to a family statement. His parents and sister still live in Warsaw, where Czapnik was born.
"Today we are faced with the loss of Eric, a police officer; and we grieve the loss of a husband, a father of four children, a brother and a son," the family wrote. "He was an engaged and dedicated police officer who truly enjoyed working with the community."
White said Czapnik joined the police force at age 48, after working in the retail sector for a number of years. He was one of the oldest recruits the department had ever hired.
He had previously also worked in Poland as an aircraft mechanic, and in Greece in construction.
Speaking Tuesday afternoon, Gregson's lawyer, Israel Gencher, said that his client was still being questioned at the police station. "I don't know what stage they're in," he said.
Gencher said his client would likely appear in court on Wednesday morning, "at which time he will have a brief appearance."
He also said police treat every homicide as important, but given the circumstances, he expects investigators will want to be "very thorough" as they probe the stabbing.
White said there was no known relationship between Czapnik and the suspect in custody, who he refused to name prior to formal charges being laid. White said he was "confident" charges would be laid by Tuesday evening.
In an update made to his Facebook account Monday night, Gregson — who joined the Mounties in 1998 — appeared defeated: "Life sometimes just runs you over — it doesn't matter how hard you try," he wrote.
Gregson worked as an RCMP officer in Saskatchewan where he threatened to kill an official of the Mormon church in Regina in 2006 after being denied a pass that would give him, a non-Mormon, access to a Mormon temple.
Gregson, who was off-duty at the time, pulled a knife and told the bishop he had been trained to kill in many different ways.
Gregson pleaded guilty to uttering death threats and was given a conditional discharge, in part because he was diagnosed with cysts in his brain several months after the incident. He has since undergone brain surgery, and his lawyer, David Bishop, says the judge took that into consideration.
Gregson went through a native addictions counselling program at Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and became an orderly at a mental hospital there.
Czapnik is the first Ottawa officer to die in the line of duty since 1983, when Const. David Utman was shot in an altercation at a shopping centre.
Earlier in the day, a visibly shaken White said the officer died at 5:30 a.m., despite the efforts of paramedics and hospital staff.
The suspect was subdued by two nearby paramedics and quick-thinking bystanders, White said.
White said Czapnik was at the hospital to follow up on an unrelated incident, and was likely writing up his notes inside the cruiser.
"It's with great sadness that I'm here before you today," White said. "Please let me express my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the officer and the family of the Ottawa Police Service who are dealing with this tragedy."
White also said condolence books would be available for the public to sign at most police offices throughout the city. Funeral arrangements were being made by the family, he added.
"I have to say I think I've received hundreds of e-mails today, not only from partners in what we do, but also from the community," White said. "It shows what a great relationship we have, but it's challenging when the relationship has been broken, as it has been here."
Provincial and municipal politicians also offered condolences to the family and community.
"Our community is in shock at this senseless crime. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of this officer and this will support them in the difficult days ahead," said Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien, adding that city flags would be lowered to half-mast.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said: "Tragedies like this one remind us of the dangers that Ontario police officers face every day. We are grateful for their courage and their sacrifice — and for the loving support of families who stand behind them. We stand with them in mourning the tragic death of Const. Czapnik."
Yellow police crime tape blocked off the area outside the emergency department's door where ambulances deliver their patients. A police officer's pistol and a black-handled knife could be seen near a pool of blood on the ground behind an Ottawa police cruiser.
Some officers gathered at the scene to mourn Czapnik's death spoke of the sombre atmosphere at Ottawa's police headquarters.
"People (are) tiptoeing by and (there's) no joking around like you typically see," White said. "In the service, it is a sense of mourning.
"Whether you knew the officer or not doesn't matter. You lost a family member. That's exactly the way we feel about it and so it's noticeable."
The emergency room remained open throughout the incident, said Nicolas Ruszkowski, vice-president of communications for the hospital.
With files from Canwest News Service, Global News, Saskatoon StarPhoenix
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service
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