A very tragic day’: Toronto police officer killed by stolen snowplow
Globe and Mail Update
Published Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011 7:02AM EST
Last updated Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011 10:57AM EST
A Toronto police officer has died after being hit by a stolen snowplow.
Sergeant Ryan Russell, a married 35-year-old father of a young son, had been a police officer for 11 years.
“This is a very tragic day for the city of Toronto and for the Toronto Police Service,” Police Chief Bill Blair said.
Toronto police officer dies from injuries Sgt. Russell was trying to stop a man driving a stolen snowplow through the city early Wednesday, striking vehicles and nearly hitting people.
The officer, who became a sergeant six months ago and previously worked with the guns-and-gangs task force, was hit at Avenue Road and Davenport Road shortly after 6 a.m. He was taken to St. Michael’s Hospital without vital signs.
Chief Blair, who fought back emotion as he spoke to reporters, described Sgt. Russell as “a fine police officer.”
“He was out doing his job in the early-morning hours in the city in a very dangerous situation and he put his life on the line and tragically has lost his life doing his job,” he said. “This is the worst of days for the Toronto Police Service.”
Sgt. Russell’s father is a former Toronto police officer, said Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association.
“We’ve lost a great officer, a great friend, a husband and a father. And I can’t imagine the grief that the family’s going through right now,” he said. “Coming from a policing family, it’s the worst nightmare.”
Around 7:15 a.m., police pursuing the snowplow opened fire at Keele Street and Annette Street in the Junction neighbourhood, injuring the driver. He was taken to St. Mike’s hospital with serious injuries.
Pierpaolo Miele was driving to work on Keele Street when the snowplow clipped his car and then hit a garbage truck.
Police officers got out of their vehicles, firing several gunshots toward the plow, Mr. Miele said,
“I heard the gun shots. I kinda saw cops on the hood of the car looking in,” said Mr. Miele, a plumber who was heading to work in Liberty Village.
Another officer received non-life-threatening leg injuries in the takedown and was taken to North York General Hospital.
The province’s Special Investigations Unit is probing the incident. The agency investigates cases of injury or death involving police.
The city will honour Sgt. Russell by lowering flags at City Hall and civic centres to half mast, Mayor Rob Ford said in a statement issuing condolences to his family and colleagues.
“His bravery and service to the City of Toronto will not be forgotten,” he said.
The events began before 5 a.m., when a private snow-clearing crew was working outside their vehicle in the Regent Park area.
Suddenly, a barefoot man jumped into the heavy-duty pick-up truck outfitted with snow-clearing equipment and sped away.
“As quickly as they noticed him, he just jumped in their vehicle and drove off. They tried to grab the door to open it and he was already gone. He basically sped off erratically and he looked like he was driving very crazy,” said Richard Eros, general manager of Tolias Landscaping and Plowing.
Mr. Eros used the truck’s GPS to give police the vehicle’s location as it drove around downtown Toronto, crashing into several vehicles in the process.
“This guy was driving around like a maniac,” Mr. Eros said.
The last Toronto Police officer to be killed in the line of duty was Constable Laura Ellis, whose police car was hit by another vehicle as she and her partner responded to a break-and-enter call in 2002.
With reports from Arti Patel and Trevor Melanson.