Ottawa Tragedy: Constable Czapnik

Constable Czapnik (Ottawa Police)

Everyone in Ottawa was trying to prepare for New Year’s festivities when a hush fell over the city as the reality of a tragic event unfolded before us in the news. On December 29th, Constable Eric Czapnik was brutally stabbed to death. Nobody likes to hear about the death of a police officer any time. An officer’s death usually occurs in the line of duty and often is as a result of going up against armed criminals during a robbery or a similar situation and it is always sad. There are several things, though, that makes Constable Czapniks death particularly tragic and in a way that the incident haunted me, even now.

According to my neighbour who knew him well, Czapnik had always wanted to be a police officer like his father had been back in Poland. Czapnik immigrated to Canada but never pursued his dream until several years ago and at the age of 48 he was recruited to the Ottawa Police. He was the oldest recruit in the history of the force and he was a very proud member and really well liked by his fellow officers. He would have probably only served for about 10 more years at most before retiring.

Then, suddenly, Czapnik was murdered because, and only because, he was a police officer. And to rub more salt in that wound…he was killed by another officer…a suspended RCMP officer, Kevin Gregson. Apparently Gregson had a psychotic grudge, presumably for his suspension, and decided to take it out against anyone he could find who was wearing a uniform. Czapnik really had no chance against him. He was stabbed while in his cruiser and Gregson knew exactly where to cut him to cause death.

Paramedics (Ottawa Paramedics)

Here’s another kicker. Czapnik was sitting in his cruiser just outside the Emergency Department of the Ottawa Hospital. Four paramedics rushed out when they saw what was happening and three of them managed to subdue the attacker. But the fourth, who tried to save Czapnik, was unsuccessful. Regardless, it was a very brave and superior show of professionalism on their parts.

Czapnik’s death affected so many people. Of course there was devastation of his family…he had four children, the youngest, a three year old son. But the city practically shut down for his public funeral. A procession of nearly 2000 police officers from Canada and the US marched solemnly along the streets lined with hundreds of civilians who had come to show their respect.

I think what really upsets me about this murder is the randomness but I’m not really sure if that’s all. I haven’t been able to reconcile it and probably one can’t except to say that Gregson was obviously crazy. But that doesn’t really help. All I can say now, and anyone can say, is rest in peace Constable Czapnik. And then we can hope that Gregson is brought to justice or, at least, confined so he can’t hurt anyone else.

Funeral Procession (Pawel Dwulit/The Canadian Press)
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9 thoughts on “Ottawa Tragedy: Constable Czapnik

  1. I wasn’t aware at all of this tragedy. I was moved to tears while reading it.
    To be stabbed to death just because you are using a uniform? A uniform Mr. Czapnik was so pround to wear!
    This can be summed up in one word: why?

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  2. Senseless loss of life is so bitter to swallow. How could Eric’s children ever understand that the death of their father was a whim, an impulse, in a criminal mind?
    I don’t care about the mental condition of the killer. I really don’t give a damn about him. His functioning organs (with the exception of his brains), however, could be put to better use in needy patients. There’s no point in his continued existence.

    I sound harsh? Well that’s how I feel.

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    1. Although I don’t agree with capital punishment, Abufares, the thirst for blood often boils just beneath the surface in even the most gentle individuals in a case such as this. Your reaction is completely understandable. Thank you so much for your comment.

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  3. To me, the most sad thing is that Constable Czapnik went to work that day fully expecting to go home to see his children. And the killer deprived him of the chance even to say good-bye.

    A sudden, unexpected death is such a shock. No one gets the chance to prepare. I know its banal to say it, but kiss your children, love them, hug them, caress them every day like it’s your last. I do.

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    1. Brigand, this is heart-breaking any way you look at it. It is always said that you should live each day as if it is your last…but sometimes it’s hard to remember…until you see something as tragic as this. It shocks you back into examining your own priorities.

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  4. Lost my father to a tragedy not far off from this one. As the child left behind – you can only try and live with the consolation that the parent died doing what they believed in – living a dream. When you put on the uniform, every day – you in a way accept the risk that comes from wearing it. Just like a diplomat or UN or NATO employee overseas accepts the risk.

    With a family in uniform – I can attest to this … you say goodbye every morning to your family knowing you may not come home. That is why I respect men and women in those uniforms. They are aware that the uniform, although a symbol – also acts as a target. It’s why we have civilian clothed police, military and security as well.

    I read this and my heart broke. Not just for this family – but for all of us who have lost a loved one to a senseless act of violence. Killing the murderer does not bring the victim back. To go to their own low level, dishonours everything that the victim stood for.

    You rise above. No one ever said life was fair or reasonable.

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