Fallen officer remembered for his dedication to the force
The family of fallen Ottawa Police Const. Eric Czapnik wiped away tears as friends and colleagues remembered him for his dedication to the force and his love to eat pickles.
"Eric lost his life because of a senseless act that took away a friend, a father, a son, and a man from his family," said Ottawa Police Chief Vern White, who spoke of Czapnik's commitment to the force.
He described Czapnik as a man of honour who served his community with a sense of pride. He said his death has affected everyone: his family, his colleagues and the community.
"Eric knew that he stood on the right side of the law. He was proud to serve the Ottawa Police Service and his community. He was a special breed."
As White spoke, a police officer's hat sat atop Czapnik's coffin, which was draped with a police flag in front of more than 8,000 people who attended his funeral at the Ottawa Civic Centre Thursday afternoon.
At 48, Czapnik was the oldest police recruit ever hired by the Ottawa Police Service. His dream to follow in his father's footsteps propelled him to become an officer of the law.
White said although police officers know the risks of the job and train for danger, sometimes none of that matters.
Tragedy strikes Ottawa
Czapnik, 51, was killed when he was stabbed in an attack outside the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital on Dec. 29. He was sitting in his police cruiser filling out paperwork on an unrelated, low-risk call.
Nearby paramedics were first on the scene. They restrained the suspect, and desperately tried to save Czapnik. He was pronounced dead a short time later.
Suspended RCMP officer Kevin Gregson is charged with first-degree murder in his death. Gregson's lawyer said his client's mental health will be taken into account when the case goes to trial.
Family struggles with their loss
Czapnik leaves behind a wife and four children; the youngest just three years old.
A close family friend said his death continues to be a daily struggle for his family, especially his children. His three-year-old son still calls for his father every time the front door opens.
Czapnik's stepson said his family has already shed a million tears and their hearts continue to break every time they think of their loss.
Still, Luckasz Galaska said his father took pride in being a police officer. It was a job he always wanted to do.
"At times he would not even go out on his days off, just so he could stay back and get ahead," said Galaska.
"This is the kind of man I want to be."
Although Czapnik faced many challenges in life, Galaska said he was always a great father and an inspiration to his children.
"Growing up and watching him with my siblings . . . and seeing all the changes he has gone through through the years, without any words ever needing to be spoken, I have learned what kind of a father I want to be."
Czapnik's colleagues also remembered him for his passion and love for the job.
"You could count on Pickles to always be by your side always, no matter the call," said Const. Troy Froats, Czapnik's colleague and friend.
Czapnik adopted his nickname from his drink of choice: vodka and pickles. The secret was in the pickles, Czapnik would say.
"This would lead to the most well-suited, most deserved, most respected and recognized nickname ever to grace the Ottawa police force: Pickles," said Froats.
Premier expresses his sorrow
Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty told Czapnik's family that words could not adequately express his sorrow.
"On behalf of millions of people, I am here to tell you we're thinking of you and praying with you," he said.
"I wish that words could take away your pain, but I know that they can't, and they can't replace your brother, your son, your husband, your father."
McGuinty said police officers give so much to their communities each and every day, and for that, citizens will forever be grateful.
Officers lined the street to give Czapnik a final salute as a hearse carrying his body left the Civic Centre, heading to Beechwood Cemetery for a private funeral late Thursday afternoon.
A private reception is being held at the Aberdeen Pavillion Thursday evening to allow Czapnik's family to meet police officers who worked with him.
Earlier in the day, more than 4,000 police officers from across North America joined in a solemn march through the city in an emotional display of thousands of red and black uniforms flowing along the streets of Ottawa.
The officers, as well as first responders, including paramedics and firefighters, marched behind a hearse carrying Czapnik's casket.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said although the tragedy happened in Ottawa, it's a traumatic event for police officers everywhere.
"The reason we're here is to demonstrate first of all our respects and our condolences for the fallen officer and also our relationship and kindred care for the officers of the Ottawa Police Service, for the City of Ottawa because the citizens have lost one of their public servants," Blair told CTV News Channel.
Czapnik is the first Ottawa police officer to be killed on the job since 1983 when Const. David Utman, 38, was fatally shot at Bayshore Shopping Centre. There have been 14 police officers killed in the line of duty in Ottawa's history.