NEWMARKET, Ont. — Thousands are mourning the loss of a fallen Ontario police officer at a memorial service north of Toronto this afternoon.
York Regional Police Const. Garrett Styles died last week after he was dragged and pinned under a minivan he had pulled over in Newmarket, Ont.
Six pallbearers — all police officers — were flanked by an honour guard as they carried Styles’ flag-covered casket into the community centre where the funeral is taking place.
His wife Melissa — cradling 10-week-old son Nolan — followed the coffin into the arena along with her 2 1/2-year-old daughter Meredith and other family members.
The sound of bagpipes filled the hall as the casket was carried in.
Thousands of officers from across North America are attending the ceremony while members of the public filled the streets during a police procession earlier this morning.
The service opened with Canadian artist John McDermott singing “Ave Maria.”
A large photograph of a smiling, uniformed Styles looks out from the front of the stage at the 2,960-seat Ray Twinney Recreational Complex, along with various floral arrangements.
Hours before the memorial service, people had begun setting up chairs along the procession route. Thousands lined the street, including many young children carrying signs reading, ”Thank you Styles family.”
If she is up to it, Styles’ wife Melissa is expected to deliver a eulogy at the memorial.
“She is having a hard time with all of this,” York Regional Police Sgt. Gary Phillips said of the young officer’s wife.
Maddie Dimuccio, a Newmarket town councillor, brought her three boys to wait outside the arena.
It was, she said, in part to teach them a lesson, in part to pay respects.
“The most important reason is to have my children come out and see how a split-second decision and poor judgment can change the lives of so many people,” Dimuccio said.
“It’s also important to come out and pay respects and tribute to a man who has sacrificed his life.”
A 15-year-old boy faces first-degree murder charges in Styles’ death.
The teen, who was badly hurt in the incident, is slated to make his first court appearance Thursday.
If convicted, the boy could face a maximum sentence of life behind bars with no possibility of parole for 10 years.
It’s the second funeral for an Ontario officer killed in the line of duty this year after Toronto police Sgt. Ryan Russell died trying to stop a stolen snowplow in January.
Colleagues have described Styles, who pleaded for help on his police radio as he lay pinned under the minivan, as a dedicated officer and the great kind of guy you would want as a neighbour.
Styles would have turned 33 on Sunday.
The last York Regional Police constable to be killed was Det. Const. Robert Plunkett in 2007. He died when a stolen car driven by Nadeem Jiwa pinned the 42-year-old officer against a tree.