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.
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.