Colleagues and family mourn death of Cst. Eric Czapnik

January 11, 2010
OTTAWA - Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says an Ottawa police officer killed on duty last week was a hero who loved his family and his job, and who put his life on the line for the community.

OTTAWA - Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says an Ottawa police officer killed on duty last week was a hero who loved his family and his job, and who put his life on the line for the community.

The premier was taking part in the funeral service for Const. Eric Czapnik, a ceremony attended by thousands of police officers, firefighters and paramedics from across Canada and the United States.

Led by muffled drums, the officers escorted the hearse carrying Czapnik's coffin to the Ottawa Civic Centre arena for the funeral rites.

Massed pipers met the hearse at the end of the march and the coffin, draped in the city flag, was carried in by eight officers stepping to the rhythm of the drums.

Hundreds of civilians, including dozens of school children, lined the streets in -9 C temperatures to pay their respects to Czapnik, the first Ottawa-area police officer killed on duty in a quarter century.

With the arena mostly filled by the uniformed personnel, an overflow area with a giant TV screen was set up in a nearby building.

Steve Boucher, head of the Ottawa Police Association, said Czapnik's death hit his colleagues hard because it had been so long since an officer died on duty.

"The range of emotions we've been going through in the last week has been very strange," he said.

He added, though, that the officers feel they have a duty to Czapnik: "We have to send him off right."

Dignitaries at the service included McGuinty, Ontario Lt.-Gov. David Onley, federal cabinet ministers and MPs, senators, provincial cabinet ministers and members of the legislature as well as senior police officers from Ottawa, the RCMP and the Ontario Provincial Police.

Czapnik, 51, was stabbed to death Dec. 29 while doing paperwork in his police cruiser outside an Ottawa hospital.

Kevin Gregson, 43, a suspended Mountie, has been charged in the death and is in custody.

Czapnik was an immigrant from Poland, where his father was a Warsaw police officer. He followed his father's path by joining the Ottawa force in 2007.

The father of four was well-known in the city's Polish community, which turned out en masse for the funeral.

Zenon Kosiniak-Kamysk, the Polish ambassador-designate to Canada, attended.

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