Mar 01 2012 OTTAWA - The story of three heroic Ottawa paramedics and their role in apprehending Kevin Gregson on the night he fatally stabbed Ottawa Const. Eric Czapnik has been closely guarded for more than two years.
It was finally told Wednesday to a packed Ottawa courtroom where the 45-year-old former Mountie is standing trial for first-degree murder.
The early hours of a freezing Dec. 29, 2009, had been routine for veteran paramedic Craig McInnes and his colleagues, Amanda Walkowiak and Patricia St. Denis.
They had been chatting and completing paperwork in their "writeup room" overlooking the ambulance bay of The Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus at about 3: 40 a.m. when MacInnes noticed a car pull in.
"I didn't think anything of it," he told the court. "It didn't seem like a dangerous situation."
Then all hell broke loose and the ensuing minutes would seem like an eternity.
"What's that officer doing trying to do? Arrest that man?" said Walkowiak. "Is he trying to take him down?"
MacInnes, a paramedic for 24 years, jumped to his feet and sprinted out into the parking lot, with Walkowiak and St. Denis close behind.
"I wanted to see if our assistance was needed," he said.
MacInnes rounded a police cruiser where earlier he had noticed an officer writing a report.
That officer, Czapnik, was pinned beneath Gregson on the frozen ground. Both were big men.
Gregson was using his knees to restrain Czapnik and, said MacInnes, was making short, punching, rapid-fire motions - perhaps six to 10 punches.
"I was confused and shocked," he said. "It's difficult to describe."
MacInnes pounced onto Gregson's back, locked his arms around the man's neck and yanked him off the police officer.
Czapnik's jugular had been slashed and blood was bubbling from his neck. As the paramedic pulled Gregson from him, Czapnik struggled to his feet, unable to speak.
"He looked at me in disbelief with big, bulging eyes," MacInnes said.
Walkowiak, close behind, saw Czapnik with one hand on his throat and the other on his gun.
"He had a look of disbelief. I've never seen eyes so wide." She urged him to get to the emergency room. The paramedics sensed he wanted to stay and help.
Before staggering toward the emergency door, his eyes met those of Patricia St. Denis.
"He mouthed 'thank you' to me," said an emotional St. Denis. "He couldn't speak."
During that brief flash of time, the three paramedics described, MacInnes had Gregson pinned to the ground, lying alongside the accused murderer almost face to face.
In one of a string of split-second, surreal moments, the paramedic said he asked Gregson why he had attacked Czapnik.
"All he had to do was give up his gun," Gregson told him. "It didn't have to end this way. All he had to do was give me his gun."
MacInnes told the court that he responded: "No police officer ever gives up his gun."
Walkowiak screamed that Gregson was still holding a knife and felt sure it was headed toward her colleague's face.
She booted Gregson twice between the legs, but he didn't react. She stomped twice on his wrist, the second time harder than the first, and the knife came loose.
"I kicked it away," she said. "I wanted it as far away from us as possible."
Meanwhile, the diminutive St. Denis had slammed her body on top of Gregson's, holding his arm, helping MacInnes restrain him.
"My belly button would have been on his belly button," she said. "We were that close."
She said she asked Gregson the same question: "Why did you do it?"
"I needed a gun," he said.
"You're in big trouble," she said she told him.
MacInnes shouted to Walkowiak to get some handcuffs - get Czapnik's handcuffs if she could.
She ran to the emergency department, following a trail of the fatally injured officer's blood.
Inside the emergency room, medical staff were surrounding Czapnik, who lay on a gurney, legs dangling. She found his handcuffs and sped back outside, where Gregson, MacInnes and St. Denis were still on the ground.
The trio had never used handcuffs before and discussed how to go about it before seeking Gregson's cooperation.
"Are you going to be good?" St. Denis said she asked. He said he would.
They hauled Gregson from the ground and, between the three of them, managed to cuff him.
"You're not very good at your job, are you?" said Gregson.
"Idiot," replied MacInnes, "we are paramedics, not cops."
St. Denis unzipped Gregson's jacket and noticed he was wearing bulletproof vests. "Why do you wear these?" she asked.
"Why don't you?" he responded.
"He was very smirky," she testified. "Extremely calm and smug."
The paramedics decided to secure Gregson in the back seat of Czapnik's cruiser until police help arrived.
"You're supposed to search me for weapons before you put me in the cruiser," Gregson, the former Mountie, told them. He helped them locate his BB gun and another knife.
St. Denis noticed two bandages on either side of Gregson's neck and said she was concerned he might need medical help.
He told her he had tried to cut his own jugular earlier that day, but had been unsuccessful.
Walkowiak, noting that the wounds were not particularly deep, said she was more concerned with getting Gregson locked in the car.
"I wanted him where he could not harm us," she told the court. "I said, 'Get in the back of the car' and slammed the door. He had a cocky, smug appearance on his face and it unsettled me."
Gregson was strangely emotionless, MacInnes said.
"He wasn't mad, he wasn't angry and he wasn't sad."
Justice Douglas Rutherford praised MacInnes at the end of his testimony Wednesday afternoon.
"Your instincts were well-placed - and commendable," he said.
Before the paramedics' dramatic testimony, Ottawa police crime scene investigators displayed weapons and clothing retrieved from Czapnik and Gregson on the night of the slaying.
Gregson, wearing the same creamcoloured shirt and grey slacks he has sported for the past three days, listened impassively to the testimony.
Gregson does not deny that he stabbed Czapnik in the neck during an altercation in the hospital parking lot, nor does he deny that he knew Czapnik was a police officer.
Gregson is pleading not guilty to the murder charge and not guilty to a charge of robbery in relation to the theft of a car.
(The Ottawa Citizen)