OTTAWA — A former Mountie with a troubled past is in custody after an Ottawa police officer was ambushed and stabbed to death while sitting in his cruiser outside a hospital.
A lawyer for Kevin Gregson, 43, says his client is expected to appear in an Ottawa court house late Tuesday to face charges in connection to the slaying.
Israel Gencher said he spoke with Gregson briefly by telephone earlier in the day, but declined to say what they talked about.
The apparently random attack on Const. Eric Czapnik, 51, took place around 4:30 a.m. ET as he was sitting in his cruiser outside the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital writing up notes on an unrelated case.
Czapnik joined the force in April 2007. He is married and the father of four children.
A flashlight, gun, notebook, a single glove, a knife with a 12-centimetre blade and a second knife lay drenched in blood at the scene, as investigators gathered evidence. A silver Honda Civic within the taped-off area remained running throughout.
“It appears our officer was in his vehicle doing notes on a call that was unrelated when the altercation or the incident happened,” a pale and shaken Ottawa police chief Vern White told The Canadian Press.
“We really don’t know much more than that. There was no call of service in relation to this. The officer apparently was … surprise attacked. … He was at the hospital on duty, (there) doesn’t appear to be a connection between the individual and the officer.”
Paramedics on the scene immediately tried to save the officer, but were unable. He died around 5:30 a.m. ET, White said.
Four paramedics and people at the hospital managed to apprehend the suspect. The Major Crime Unit is investigating and police said the suspect will not be identified until charges are laid.
Hours later, cruisers were still swarming the area around the emergency room where the stabbing occurred. Officers sought shelter in their cars from the frigid temperatures, which hovered around -20 C. They had cordoned off a parking bay with yellow police tape.
At an afternoon news conference Tuesday, White said Czapnik came to Canada from Poland in 1990. Czapnik’s father was also a police officer in Poland.
Czapnik worked in the city’s east division, in the rural section. He had a few hours left in his shift when he answered a routine call at the hospital.
The president of the Canadian Police Association said he met Czapnik in his role as president of the Ottawa Police Association at the time, and the officer stood out in the crowd of new recruits.
“He seemed like a very jovial, happy-go-lucky individual,” Charles Momy said.
His death will have a profound effect on the force, Momy said. “This is going to be a significant, significant loss.”
The last time an Ottawa police officer was slain in the line of duty was in October 1983 when Const. David Utman, 38, was shot at a shopping centre during an altercation.
“It tough. This city, particularly in relation to police officers, has been very, very safe. We haven’t lost an officer since the early 80s. Not that it would be easier. But it certainly is not something we’re used to dealing with or managing,” White said in his office after commiserating with a colleague on the telephone.
“My condolences go out to the family and friends of this officer. And the family of the Ottawa police service, because very quickly you become a family member in this organization, as I found out after a couple of years.”
Gregson has been before the courts previously. He received a conditional discharge in 2007 for pulling a knife on a Mormon church official in Regina the year before.
Court heard that Gregson, who was off duty at the time, became angry and brandished a knife when a bishop refused to grant him a special card that allows members to enter Mormon temples for certain ceremonies.
“You don’t know how many ways I’ve been taught to kill,” Gregson said, according to a Crown prosecutor.
Several months later Gregson had surgery to remove cysts in his brain.
He pleaded guilty in a Regina court in April 2007 to uttering a death threat.