Two police officers killed in ‘devastating’ Innisfil shooting

Oct 13, 2022 | Canadian News, Headlines, News

By Jordan Griffith and Emma Posca

INNISFIL, Ont. — The bodies of two South Simcoe constables killed by a gunman during a domestic disturbance call were returned to Barrie. Now begins the planning for the police funerals for Morgan Russell, 54, and Devon Northrup, 33.

“There will be a full police funeral for our officers together. Details are still being finalized,” a statement by South Simcoe police said.

The officers never pulled out their service pistols while at the Oct. 11 call on Somers Boulevard, in the 25th Side Road and 9th Line area, when they were shot. A third officer on the scene apparently returned fire.

The suspect, Christopher Joseph Doncaster, 22, was pronounced dead at the scene after an exchange of gunfire with officers inside the home. An autopsy is expected to be completed today, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said.

South Simcoe Acting Police Chief John Van Dyke choked back tears during a media conference Oct. 12 as he identified Russell and Northrup as the officers who died in the line of duty.

“Words cannot describe our grief,” he said. “The South Simcoe Police Service is devastated to announce the death of two of our officers.”

Russell and Northrup responded to a domestic disturbance involving a man with some military training who lived on the residential street just before 8 p.m.

South Simcoe Constable Devon Northrup died in a shootout with a lone gunman inside an Innisfil, Ont., home Oct. 11.

South Simcoe Constable Devon Northrup died in a shootout with a lone gunman inside an Innisfil, Ont., home Oct. 11. Photo credit: South Simcoe Regional Police

Constable Morgan Russell died during a shootout with a lone gunman Oct. 11 in Innisfil, Ont.

Constable Morgan Russell died during a shootout with a lone gunman Oct. 11 in Innisfil, Ont. Photo credit: South Simcoe Regional Police

Police said Northrup died at the scene and Russell was airlifted to St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, where he later died.

Russell was a 33-year veteran of the force, a crisis negotiator and was assigned to uniform patrol. Northrup was a six-year member of the force and part of the mental health crisis outreach and support team, as well as the Emergency Response Unit.

SIU spokesperson Kristy Denette confirmed that both officers did not have their weapons drawn at the time they were fatally shot. She said a third officer was present at the home where they exchanged gunfire with the man.

“This is personal for me. I went to police college with Morgan 33 years ago,” Van Dyke said through tears.

“This is a heartbreaking time for our police service, the families impacted, our emergency services personnel and our communities,” he said. “Our immediate focus is to support our members and their grieving families.”

The SIU, which investigates all interactions involving police involving deaths or serious injuries to a member of the public, has taken over the investigation into his death.

Photo posted on Grandmother Donna Doncaster's facebook from 1 year ago. Donna Doncaster/Facebook

Photo on Donna Doncaster's Facebook page a year ago. She is the grandmother of suspected gunman Christopher Joseph Doncaster, 23. Two South Simcoe constables were killed in the Oct. 11 shootout in Innisfil, Ont.

“The focus of the investigation is the (third) officer’s discharge of firearms,” Denette said.

She said it was unclear whether the suspect took his own life.

Denette said “I’m uncomfortable confirming what the type is” but believed it was a rifle.

Doncaster posted a photograph of himself in a Canadian Armed Forces uniform on social media and the Department of National Defence confirmed “having someone by the name of Christopher Joseph Doncaster, who was a CAF member from May to December 2020.

“He was a Private with no deployment history and who did not complete basic training,” the DND said in an email message to questions from Et Cetera.

Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin fought back tears as she described the fallen officers and their impact on the community.

“Our hearts are broken for the families and for our police colleagues,” she said.

Dollin said she knew the two officers and described them as wonderful folks.

“They’re not just police officers, they’re friends,” Dollin said.

She said the community had not experienced a similar loss since 2002 when Constable Alan Kuzmich, 41, died in the line of duty.

“This is not something that we are accustomed to here,” she said. “It is a safe place.”

A witness, who asked not to be identified, told Humber Et Cetera she knew the suspect’s family for a long time and had lived on the street since she was four.

The suspect and his family were “so kind and calm” and “joking around” during the last interaction she had with them, she said.

She compared the sound of the gunshots she heard to fireworks and said they were “really loud and really fast.”

“I feel sick that it happened somewhere I feel comfortable,” she said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford went to the Innisfil police detachment to offer his support to the service and the town. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted his condolences to the family, the service and the community.

Four officers have now been killed in the past four weeks in southern Ontario. Toronto Constable Andrew Hong, 48, was shot dead while on a lunch break on Sept. 12 and York Region Constable Travis Gillespie, 38, died while on his way to work Sept. 14 when his vehicle was struck by an impaired driver.

The SIU investigation, with six investigators and three forensic investigators, is expected to last for 120 days and anyone with information is asked to contact them at 1-800-787-8529.