Slain police officer identified as father of four
An Ottawa police officer stabbed to death outside the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital has been identified as Const. Eric Czapnik, a proud father of four.
Czapnik, 51, joined the Ottawa police force three years ago and worked in the city's rural east division.
Czapnik immigrated to Canada from Poland in 1990. He worked at Johnson's Business Interiors in Ottawa for 16 years before following in his father's footsteps to become a police officer in 2007.
"He was an engaged and dedicated police officer who truly enjoyed working in the community," said Ottawa Police Chief Vern White, as he read a statement from Czapnik's family.
"This is the most difficult time for our family."
Fellow police officers described Czapnik as a fantastic policeman who was proud of his work.
"He was a very jovial, happy go-lucky officer," said Charles Momy, president of the Canadian Police Association.
"He appeared to me to be like other police officers -- very eager to start a new life in a new job in a new city."
He had three sons and one daughter. He loved to play soccer and was active in Ottawa's Polish community.
Funeral arrangements are currently being organized for next week.
Attack was unprovoked
Police tape blocked off a pool of blood, a knife and gun left lying on the ground near the entrance of the emergency room at the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital on Tuesday morning.
Police say Czapnik was sitting in his cruiser writing up notes on an unrelated case when he was attacked by a male suspect at about 4:30 a.m. He only had a few hours left in his shift.
Police say nearby paramedics were first on the scene and helped detain the suspect.
"They were essential to actually apprehending the offender. Without their assistance, I'm not sure what would have happened next," said White.
Although the paramedics tried to save the officer, he died about an hour later.
Police say Czapnik did not know his killer. Rather, the attack is being regarded as a random incident.
"There was no interaction between the two from what we can see. There was certainly no relationship or any activity between the two officers before the attack occurred," said White.
He added that Czapnik did not place himself in harm's way and could not do anything more to defend himself.
"He was sent there to follow up on a call. We do 10 of these a night. It's just one more call to the hospital," said White, describing the call as not high-risk.
The public is advised that the emergency room at the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital remains open.
An RCMP officer reportedly on paid medical leave following brain surgery has been arrested in connection with the case.
A lawyer for Kevin Gregson said his client is expected to appear in court Wednesday morning to face charges in relation to the fatal stabbing.
"He will appear in front of the justice of the peace at the first opportunity, which I will expect to be early tomorrow morning," lawyer Israel Gencher told CTV Ottawa on Tuesday.
Gregson, 43, used to work for the RCMP at their Regina headquarters. In 2006, he was arrested for pulling a knife on a Mormon church official in Regina.
He received a conditional discharge after explaining to the court that he had recently undergone brain surgery for cysts on his brain.
Police chief shaken
Flags at Ottawa police headquarters on Elgin Street were lowered to half-mast on Tuesday, where Chief White appeared visibly shaken at a morning news conference.
He described the situation as an overwhelming tragedy -- like losing a member of his own family.
"Policing is like family. Often we fight and argue, but always there's this bond and connection, just like families have to each other," White told CTV News Channel.
Although the entire police force is dealing with the loss, he said it will be particularly difficult for those who worked with Czapnik.
"It will be a tough time, particularly through the next few days."
Officers deal with grief
Earlier today, officers were asked to contact their own families to let them know they were safe. Some of those phone calls were being made as early as 6:30 a.m.
Counsellors have been called in to help police officers deal with their grief. The police chief said it's a situation his officers don't face often.
"It's a very safe city and our officers don't typically find themselves in this type of (situation)," White said.
It's been almost 30 years since an Ottawa police officer was killed on the job. Const. David Utman, 38, was shot and killed on Oct. 14, 1983 in an altercation at Bayshore Shopping Centre.
A 22-year-old man was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in connection with the case.
In Ottawa's history, there have been 14 police officers killed in the line of duty.
Outpouring of support
Ottawa police have received an outpouring of condolence messages since news of the stabbing spread Tuesday morning.
Those who wish to express their condolences are invited to send email messages to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Residents can also sign one of several books of condolences that will be made available at police stations across the city, beginning on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Those locations include:
- 4561 Bank St.,
- 211 Huntmar Dr.,
- 3343 St. Joseph Blvd.,
- and 245 Greenbank Rd.
A book of condolences will also be made available at Ottawa police headquarters at 474 Elgin Street 24 hours a day.