Ottawa officer dies from stab wounds

January 11, 2010
OTTAWA - The suspended Mountie charged with stabbing an Ottawa police officer to death has been remanded in protective custody until Jan. 7.

OTTAWA - The suspended Mountie charged with stabbing an Ottawa police officer to death has been remanded in protective custody until Jan. 7.

Kevin Gregson, 43, appeared in an Ottawa courtroom today, facing charges of robbery and the first degree murder of 51-year-old Const. Eric Czapnik, who was ambushed while sitting in his cruiser taking notes outside an Ottawa hospital.

Czapnik was stabbed to death while sitting in his cruiser writing up notes on an unrelated case outside the Civic Campus of the Ottawa hospital about 4:30 Tuesday morning.

Investigators say the attack appears to have been unprovoked.

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 Ottawa police chief Vern 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.

{Flags lowered}

Flags at Ottawa police headquarters on Elgin Street were lowered to half-mast on Tuesday. 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.

"Please let me express my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the police officer and the OPS family members who are dealing with this tragedy," White said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them."

Czapnik leaves behind four children, three sons and a daughter. His parents and sister live in Warsaw, where his father was a police officer for over 30 years.

Czapnik came to Canada from Poland in 1990 and was hired by the Ottawa force in 2007.

Although the entire police force is dealing with the loss, White said it will be particularly difficult for those who worked with Czapnik.

"It will be a tough time, particularly through the next few days."

Earlier Tuesday, 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 a shopping centre.

A 22-year-old man was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in connection with the case.

There have been 14 Ottawa police officers killed in the line of duty.

{Suspect a suicide risk}

The Crown asked that Gregson be put on suicide watch - a request that was not opposed by his lawyer.

It also requested that Gregson be banned from contacting five potential witnesses who still need to be questioned, mostly family members, including some children.

Gregson's lawyer, Israel Gencher, said police questioned his client for hours on Tuesday night, but he has yet to see the reports from the interrogation.

Gencher said he is considering asking for a psychiatric assessment.

The brown-haired man with a receding hairline was dressed in a blue jumpsuit and had his hands in cuffs for his brief mid-morning court appearance.

He kept his eyes downcast throughout, while his subdued elderly parents watched from the other side of the courtroom, sticking close together.

"His parents are understandably quite upset, and they are asking to please honour their privacy," Gencher said after the hearing.

"They're elderly. This has rocked their world, and they're really not in a position to give a statement at this time."

Gregson grew up in Ottawa and has family there and an ex-wife in Saskatchewan, Gencher said.

He said the accused man is still considered a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, although his status is the subject of a labour dispute that is in litigation.

The RCMP has also clarified that Gregson is still a Mountie, although he has been ordered to quit his post.

Suspended with pay in 2006, he was recently suspended without pay and ordered to resign or be dismissed. His dismissal has been appealed.

{Mixed history}

Gregson appears to have had a conflicting history in Saskatchewan, where he incurred charges for assault, threatening and weapons offences.

His medical issues were discussed in court in Regina in April 2007, after Gregson pleaded guilty to threatening a Mormon bishop.

Then a nine-year RCMP veteran, he lost some of his privileges within the Mormon church and went to the bishop to demand that they be returned.

During the confrontation, Gregson pulled out a knife and placed it on a table with the blade pointed toward the bishop.

Gregson claimed he was part of an elite tactical unit with the RCMP and said, "I'm messed up. No one knows how messed up I am....

"You don't know how many ways I have been taught to kill a man. I am better with a knife than a pistol."

{Earlier charges}

According to information from courthouses around the province, Gregson faced charges of assault and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose while working in Cumberland House in 2001.

Those charges were the subject of a preliminary hearing and later went to trial in Melfort late in 2002. Court staff could not confirm the disposition of the charges Tuesday.

A woman who knew Gregson while he was in Cumberland House said she was shocked to learn of his arrest on Tuesday.

"I really liked Kevin. He had, I thought, a very nice family at the time," said the woman, who asked not to be named. "I knew him when he was so happy and healthy.

"To me, I thought he was a very nice person, but I do remember when he left, I heard he may have had some medical problems - some brain problems."

In court on the threatening charge, defence lawyer David Bishop said Gregson had been stressed, suicidal, "suffering from confusion," and had been treated for cysts in his brain.

Bishop said a stent had been put in Gregson's head which alleviated the "stress and confusion," and that Gregson was "problem- free" and taking medication.

"Because it's been treated, the public can rest easy," he said.

Judge Bruce Henning accepted a joint recommendation for a conditional discharge for the threatening charge, in large part because of Gregson's medical issues.

Charges of carrying a knife for a purpose dangerous to the public peace, assault with threatening to use a knife and intimidation were stayed.

Gregson received a conditional discharge.

{Condolences}

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 e-mail messages to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

(CP, CTV, Ottawa Citizen, Regina Leader-Post)

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