The province’s Special Investigations (SIU) has found no criminal wrongdoing by a South Simcoe police officer in the death of a 22-year-old man who shot and killed two officers in Innisfil last October.
In the report, the SIU says at around 8 p.m. on Oct. 11, 2022, officers responded to a residence in the area of 25th Sideroad and the 9th Line, following a call from the homeowner asking that police come to the residence to have the suspect removed because he had “grabbed her eyeglasses from her face and broken them and punched a hole in the wall.” When the homeowner was asked if the suspect had been drinking or whether weapons were involved, the person said that wasn’t the case.
The SIU says the homeowner lived with two family members and contrary to what the individual told police in her call, the suspect had consumed alcohol, and he also had access to firearms, including a semi-automatic rifle, located in a gun safe in his basement bedroom.
Three officers arrived at the residence and the SIU says while inside the home, an officer was speaking with an occupant when gunshots rang out.
The gunshots fatally struck 54-year-old Const. Morgan Russell and 33-year-old Const. Devon Michael Northrup.
The SIU says the third officer reached over the railing and began shooting down into a dark basement, and fired 12 to 14 rounds before reloading the gun. In the report, the officer called out “police,” but according to the SIU, when the officer looked down the stairs he saw the suspect in a pool of blood and a rifle in his hands.
The SIU adds that the suspect was armed with a semi-automatic rifle and fired up the stairs 11 times at Constables Russell and Northrup. Neither officers had their guns drawn at the time, says the SIU, and shortly after in the basement, the suspect shot himself.
Despite life saving efforts by the third officer and other first responders who arrived at the scene, the SIU says Russell and Northrup died of their injuries.
The SIU concluded that the third officer by firing his gun “might well have saved his own life, as well as those of the complainant’s family members, who were nearby.”
The agency reports the suspect was known to police and had previously been removed from the house by officers.
“We are relieved that this process has been completed and that the officer was determined to be legally justified in his actions. Of course, no investigation can ever bring back our beloved fallen officers, Morgan Russell and Devon Northrup, but at least we can now close one chapter of this tragedy,” said South Simcoe Police Chief John Van Dyke.
Banner image: Const. Devon Northrup, left, and Const. Morgan Russell (South Simcoe Police handout)