With files from The Canadian Press
The funeral for a 28-year-old OPP officer who was murdered this week will be held in Barrie on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023.
Police say more details will be announced when they are finalized.
A procession to escort Constable Grzegorz (Greg) Pierzchala will take place on Friday.
OPP say the procession will depart from the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto at 9:00 a.m. and travel northbound on Highway 400 to Barrie.
Members of the public are invited to join First Responders in showing their respects from one of the many overpasses along the highway. Police ask the public not to stop on the highway to exit your vehicle as this poses a serious safety concern.
The OPP will livestream the media event on multiple platforms including:
- Twitter at @OPP_HSD and @OPP_News
- Facebook: OPPHSD and ontarioprovincialpolice
- TikTok: @opphighwaysafetydivision
OPP have said Constable Grzegorz (Greg) Pierzchala was responding to a call for a vehicle in a ditch on Tuesday afternoon just west of Hagersville in Haldimand County and was shot dead when he got there.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday evening, OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said Pierzchala was at the scene for a very short period of time and did not discharge his firearm.
“The officer was essentially ambushed and stood absolutely no chance of being able to defend himself,” Carrique said.
The investigation into the shooting, including the motive and circumstances behind it, is ongoing. Pierzchala was equipped with a body-worn camera at the time, Carrique said, and in addition to viewing that footage investigators will be canvassing the area Thursday to look for witnesses.
Police have said the suspects ditched the vehicle they were in and fled on foot. They allegedly robbed a citizen of their vehicle at the scene after the officer was shot, Carrique said, though it’s unclear whether the vehicle was taken at gunpoint.
Twenty-five-year-old Randall McKenzie and 30-year-old Brandi Crystal Lyn Stewart-Sperry are each facing a charge of first-degree murder in Pierzchala’s death.
Court documents show McKenzie had a history with the justice system.
A 2021 document from the Parole Board of Canada says McKenzie is from the Onondaga First Nations of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. He was serving an almost three-year sentence for robbery, assault with a weapon, possession of a weapon and other charges when his release was revoked that year because he was not complying with his terms.
McKenzie has been prohibited for life for possessing firearms since 2018 and was charged in 2021 with several firearms offences and assaulting a peace officer, Carrique said.
He failed to attend a court appearance in September, at which point additional charges were laid against him and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Carrique said he was “outraged” that McKenzie was out on bail at the time of the shooting.
Pierzchala graduated in 2012 from St. Joan of Arc High School in Barrie.
The Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board released a statement on Wednesday saying that Greg had made ‘an enduring and positive impact’ in his four years at the school, and he is fondly remembered by all those who knew him.
“He was very involved in school life – excelling in academics and athletics, and even achieved senior athlete of the year after qualifying for OFSAA in swimming and wrestling and participating in soccer, track and field, weight training and rowing. Greg exemplified Christian leadership in all aspects of his life and faithfully attended Mass at Holy Spirit Parish. He was always thoughtful, considerate, kind and followed his heart – he was the kind of guy who was committed to doing the right thing,” the statement said. “Greg was an inspiration and positive influence to all, even as a young high school student, because he approached his life with incredible determination, compassion and joy. It is not surprising that he followed a career path of service to others.”
The OPP has said Pierzchala had been with force for just over a year and he had been notified that he had passed his 10-month probation period hours before his death. They added he was previously a special constable at Queen’s Park who, as a boy, dreamt of joining the police ranks.
This will be the second police funeral in just over two months in Barrie.
On October 20, a private funeral was held at Sadlon Arena for South Simcoe Police Constables Morgan Russell, 54, and Devon Northrup, 33, who died after responding to a call at a home in Innisfil.
The Special Investigations Unit, which is investigating the shooting, has said the two officers did not draw their firearms before they were shot by a 22-year-old man at the home where the incident took place. The suspect was then shot and killed by a third officer who had responded to the call.
Banner image: @OPP_WR