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Funeral for slain Haldimand OPP officer set for Wednesday as investigation continues

Police lined up to pay respect to Const. Grzegorz Pierzchala as his body was taken from Toronto to Barrie, Ont., on Dec. 30, three days after he was shot while responding to a call about a vehicle in a ditch. His funeral in Barrie will take place Wednesday (Jan. 4), with a livestream starting at 10:30 a.m. ET. (CBC - image credit)
Police lined up to pay respect to Const. Grzegorz Pierzchala as his body was taken from Toronto to Barrie, Ont., on Dec. 30, three days after he was shot while responding to a call about a vehicle in a ditch. His funeral in Barrie will take place Wednesday (Jan. 4), with a livestream starting at 10:30 a.m. ET. (CBC - image credit)

Ontario Provincial Police announced the funeral for Const. Grzegorz (Greg) Pierzchala, the 28-year-old killed Dec. 27 while responding to a vehicle in a ditch near Hagersville, Ont., will be held Wednesday.

The funeral at Barrie's Sadlon Arena starts at 11 a.m. ET. The visitation, mass and internment will be private, but members of the public can watch the service via livestream, which begins at 10:30 a.m., on the OPP's main social media accounts.

The funeral plans were announced Monday as police continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding Pierzchala's death. Randall McKenzie, 25, and Brandi Stewart-Sperry, 30, have been charged with first-degree murder.

In Haldimand County, the Caledonia Lions Hall will offer an in-person broadcast of the funeral, with doors opening at 10:30 a.m., for community members to mourn the loss of the officer.

OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson said the police service estimates thousands — mostly officers and first responders — will attend the funeral.

"We do expect thousands and thousands of police officers from not only Ontario, but from elsewhere to gather to say goodbye to an officer, but to also help celebrate the life of a young police officer," Dickson said.

In Barrie, the public is welcome to attend the procession to the arena. Procession route information will be released by the OPP on Tuesday.

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner/Twitter
Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner/Twitter

Pierzchala had been living and working in Haldimand County for 10 months when he was killed. The shooting in Hagersville, about 45 kilometres southwest of Hamilton, has led to an outpouring of community support for his family and the Haldimand OPP.

"It's a horrible experience, a horrible time for everyone, but the support has been just phenomenal," Dickson said.

Haldimand Mayor Shelley Bentley expressed her condolences to Pierzchala's family, friends and colleagues in a statement, and said the community needs to come together to grieve.

"Haldimand County is a close-knit community and many are feeling this loss deeply," she said. "Joining in remembrance at the local level is a way that we can come together as a community to grieve and honour a hero taken much too soon."

Calls for bail system reform 

At a news conference Friday morning, federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre extended condolences to Pierzchala's loved ones, and said the case demonstrates the government needs to take a different approach to bail.

During his life, McKenzie had been charged and convicted for a number of violent offences, including armed robbery.

McKenzie was granted bail in December 2021 on charges of possessing firearms and assaulting a police officer. He had an active warrant out for his arrest at the time of Pierzchala's killing and was also banned from possessing firearms.

"Conservatives are calling on the Trudeau government to reverse its catch-and-release bail policy," Poilievre said.

WATCH | Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino speaks about gun crimes:

Poilievre said the government, under Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, should change how often bail is granted by ensuring repeat violent offenders are detained until "it can be assured to all of us that they are no longer a danger to the public."

Poilievre pointed to Bill C-75, a government bill passed in 2019. The law contains a "principle of restraint," emphasizing police and courts that favour "release at the earliest opportunity" over detention.

Additionally, the law requires "that the circumstances of Indigenous accused and of accused from vulnerable populations are considered at bail." However, Crystal Winchester, a Haudenosaunee criminal justice worker, told CBC Hamilton last week that Indigenous men and women continue to get bail and conditional sentences "less frequently than the rest of the population."

On Friday, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said, "Clearly the system did not work here," referring to McKenzie's early release and the subsequent shooting.

Mendicino said he is committed to working with law enforcement, the provinces and the territories to make sure bail system reforms are pushed forward, "so that we can prevent tragedies like this from ever occurring again."

"We have a comprehensive plan, which includes putting forward responsible gun controls, including Bill C-21, which would raise the maximum sentences against serious gun and violent offenders to deter them," he said.

"We've got to stop gun violence from occurring in the first place."

Pierzchala wearing a body cam during shooting

"We're not really talking about the investigation [into Pierzchala's death] this week just because we're focused on saying goodbye to an officer who was murdered," Dickson said.

He confirmed to CBC Hamilton that Pierzchala was wearing a body camera during the shooting, as part of an OPP program that started May 18, 2021.

OPP
OPP

Traffic enforcement, emergency response officers and uniformed officers with the OPP's Haldimand detachment wear the body cameras and are required to inform the public that they are recording.

Last week, OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said officers were going door to door, asking people if they witnessed anything related to the shooting. Dickson also had a message for people in Haldimand County.

"If anyone in the area, if they haven't spoken to police and they have any information, I would encourage them to actually proactively reach out to the OPP," he said.