Police, city officials shocked and reeling after shooting death of Toronto police officer

·4 min read
Const. Andrew Hong, 48, a member of the Toronto Police Service's traffic services unit, was fatally shot in Mississauga while on a joint training exercise with the Peel and York regional police services. He died at the scene. (Submitted by name withheld - image credit)
Const. Andrew Hong, 48, a member of the Toronto Police Service's traffic services unit, was fatally shot in Mississauga while on a joint training exercise with the Peel and York regional police services. He died at the scene. (Submitted by name withheld - image credit)

Officials from Toronto police and other city agencies say they are still reeling Tuesday morning, after an officer was killed in what police described as an unprovoked and deadly "ambush" Monday afternoon.

Toronto Police Association president Jon Reid told CBC News that he and police Chief James Ramer delivered that grim news to the family of Const. Andrew Hong.

"Probably one of the hardest things that I've ever done," Reid said on CBC Radio's Metro Morning Tuesday.

"I think all police officers know [when] they put on their uniform in the morning, they go to work — in the back of their minds there's always that possibility that something could happen, they could get hurt, injured, possibly be killed. But for it to actually happen, to call it tragic doesn't even scratch the surface."

The 48-year-old is survived by his wife, Jenny, two teenage children, a boy and a girl, and his parents.

His family said they are grateful for the outpouring of love and support.

"Andrew was magnetic. He was a man of steel on the outside with a warm teddy bear personality on the inside. His personality was larger than life," the family said in a statement.

"He loved his Police family and was so proud to be a member of the Toronto Police Service, and especially loved being part of the Motor Unit.

"He was a practical joker and got along with everyone. His absence has left a gaping hole in the heart of our family, the Police family, and everyone who knew and loved Andrew."

Hong's family is asking for privacy at this time.

Ramer said Hong — who was a 22-year veteran and a member of the traffic services division — was an outstanding member of the service and an outstanding person.

"It's very difficult. Andrew was such a loved guy," Ramer said Tuesday morning. "I think just the sudden tragic circumstances — it's hard to understand."

Peel police are co-ordinating a multi-jurisdictional investigation into Hong's death as well as one other person who was killed and three others injured in a series of shootings Monday across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

WATCH | Police chief remembers Hong:

The chase for the suspect ended about two hours after the first of two reported shootings when Ontario's police watchdog says officers shot the man, who had been tracked down to a Hamilton cemetery.

The Special Investigations Unit says their probe will focus partly on the cemetery and four officers who were involved in the incident.

They say they notified the alleged suspect's next-of-kin last night and are awaiting an autopsy. They have assigned seven investigators and two forensic investigators to the case.

Clara Pasieka/CBC
Clara Pasieka/CBC

Family 'devastated,' police association president says

Reid told CBC News that Hong was a very skilled motorcycle rider, and he was hosting training as an instructor on the day he was killed.

Hong was "very well-liked by his colleagues" and a "consummate professional," he said, adding that his family is "devastated.

"A very good family man, obviously loved by his family," he said.

In a tweet, Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said Hong was a close personal friend of his. Pegg called him "an Officer, a gentleman and an incredible human being.

"You will never be forgotten," Pegg said.

Community members pay respects

A steady stream of community members visited the site Tuesday to lay flowers and pay their respects. Tina Baldassi lives nearby and brought a small planter of yellow chrysanthemums.

"I felt compelled to come to pay my respect, first of all, and to offer something in the way of condolences and sympathy to his family and and to the police department, to the Toronto police department, of course, primarily, but also the Peel department," she said.

Toronto Mayor John Tory called the incident a "senseless tragedy' Tuesday morning.

"All of these are tragedies when you lose a police officer — but this is so senseless," he said.

"I just am so overwhelmed with grief for the family."

WATCH | Auto repair shop owner, Toronto police officer killed in shootings:

A previously scheduled meeting Tuesday of the Toronto Police Services Board began with top officials holding a moment of silence for Hong.

In a statement, the board said Hong was "was an exceedingly kind and positive person, gentle and caring, funny and warm, who loved his family, and did his job with extraordinary commitment and great professionalism.

"Our hearts and thoughts are with the family of P.C. Hong, his wife, son, daughter, and his parents, along with the Members of the Toronto Police Service, as we mourn his senseless and tragic death, and honour the ultimate sacrifice he has made, in serving a city he loved."