Police officers did not draw firearms before they were fatally shot: watchdog

New details emerged from the agency on Thursday, including that a third officer had been at the home

By Holly McKenzie-Sutter

with files from Barrie 360

Two South Simcoe police officers who died responding to a call at an Innisfil home did not draw their firearms before they were shot, Ontario’s police watchdog said Thursday.

The Special Investigations Unit had said a day earlier that there was an “exchange of gunfire” Tuesday night between the two officers and a 22-year-old man, who also died in the shooting. 

New details emerged from the agency on Thursday, including that a third officer had been at the home. 

“Based on preliminary information, the two officers did not draw their firearms when they were fatally shot,” Special Investigations Unit spokeswoman Kristy Denette said in a written statement. 

“A third officer who was also at the house exchanged gunfire with the man.”

The South Simcoe Police Service has identified the officers who died as Const. Devon Northrup, 33, and Const. Morgan Russell, 54. The third officer, who hasn’t been named, was not injured, Denette said.

The SIU, which is still investigating, said the three officers were responding to a call from a family member about a disturbance at a home in the area of 25 Side Road and the 9th Line.

The 22-year-old man, who lived at the home, had a gun that the SIU said was a SKS semi-automatic rifle.

An autopsy on the man is set for Friday, the SIU said. 

The SIU did not name the young man, but did announce late Thursday afternoon that he was 22, not 23 years old.

Court records show he was charged with mischief under $5,000 in October 2018 and two failures to appear in court. All three charges were withdrawn in June of the following year.

The Department of National Defence confirmed Thursday that the man was a Canadian Armed Forces member from May to December 2020.

“He was a private with no deployment history and who did not complete basic training,” the department said. 

Residents who live in the area have expressed shock at what happened. Some said an elderly couple who had an adult grandson lived in the house where the shooting took place.

South Simcoe police said words cannot describe the grief the force is experiencing.

Northrup, a six-year member of the South Simcoe Police Service, worked with the community mobilization and engagement unit, and also served as a member of the mental health crisis outreach team and the emergency response unit. He is survived by his partner and parents, police said.

In 2020, Northrup was given an Excellence in Emergency award by the force for his role in helping a person in crisis. 

Russell, a father of two, was a 33-year veteran of the force. He was a trained crisis negotiator and was assigned to uniform patrol, the police service said. 

Flowers were seen placed outside South Simcoe Police’s Innisfil detachment, and a community vigil drew mourners together Wednesday night as the officers were remembered. 

“From the flowers and food being dropped off at our stations, to last night’s packed candlelight vigil, to Innisfil Beach Park lit up in blue, to the book of condolence in Bradford, for all the posts and notes of condolence – thank you,” South Simcoe Police tweeted on Thursday afternoon. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2022.

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