Sgt. Ryan Russell died as he lived: Helping the residents of Toronto. This morning Russell tried to stop a man driving a stolen snow plow that was hitting vehicles and coming close to hitting those on the street. It was his last act protecting the public.
"Today we will grieve the loss of one of our officers, a hero to the Toronto Police Service who went out this morning to do his job,"said Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair. "In doing his job gave his life. That is a tragedy for all of us."
At Avenue and Davenport Roads, Sgt. Russell was hit by the snowplow. It was 6 a.m.
As he lay on the cold street he succumbed to his injuries and lost vital signs. He was taken to St. Michael's Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Even after hitting Russell, the driver of the stolen snow plow did not stop his rampage. At 7:15 a.m. the police opened fire on the man at Keele and Annette Streets, where the driver was shot several times and taken to hospital with serious injuries. The case is now under investigation by the Special Investigations Unit.
Earlier that morning, at 5 a.m., the plow was stolen from a private company working in the Regent Park area. A man without shoes jumped into the truck and drove away and the company used the truck's GPS to give police its location.
Chief William Blair spoke at Police headquarters on the murder of Sgt. Ryan Russell
Chief Blair said that today is a sad day for the City of Toronto, "Today we have had the sad duty to notify Sgt. Russell's family of the tragic loss of this officer."
Blair said that the police are doing everything that they can to support Russell's family. Those who worked with Russell will be provided support as they mourn.
"I think it is important to remember the fact today that our people go out and do extraordinary things each and every day," he said. "They put their lives on the line. They do it to keep the public safe, the community safe. That they are willing to put themselves in harm's way for others. It is each and every day an extraordinary act of courage. And today we have seen the price that some have to pay. I think it's important we go home and hug our kids."
Just promoted six months ago Sergeant Ryan Russell is being remembered as a hero, a loving husband and father, one of the good guys. On January 12 as much of Toronto was just thinking of waking up he lay on cold pavement as his life ended. Run over by a man driving a stolen snowplow bent on destruction.
Witnesses are now talking to Russell's brothers in blue who are left to investigate his murder. They are piecing together the last moments of a dedicated officer who had before the summer worked in the guns and gangs unit.
A man is in custody for the murder of Sergeant Russell. He was wounded while being taken into custody. During a press briefing this afternoon Chief William Blair said that he couldn't comment on the condition of the suspect. During the arrest another officer was wounded. Chief Blair said that she will make a full recovery.
Ray Cheung, a local delivery service driver, was at the scene when police took down the suspect. Cheung was a mere 50 to 70 feet away when he witnessed three or four cruisers speed up and join the other two or three cruisers near a pick-up with a snowplow attached. Cheung said the truck was stopped on what appeared to be a lawn or driveway.
"I heard about the snowplow on the radio but didn't think it was just a pick-up truck," said Cheung in a phone interview. "The police rushed the vehicle and jumped on the hood of the truck. It appeared the driver was trying to drive off again. The police then fired at him."
Cheung said police fired at the suspect at point-blank range. He said after the suspect was wounded, at least 20 cruisers were at the scene within minutes.
Cheung said he was not afraid during the incident and traffic in the area was lighter than usual.
"I guess because of the snow, traffic was not as busy as usual," he said. "There were only about two vehicles other than myself."
The police did not question Cheung or the other drivers and Cheung said they all made a U-Turn and left the scene.
As the news was heard by the public, an outpouring of sympathy and support for Sergeant Ryan swelled on social networks.
"Absolutely disgusting human being took away one of our protectors. Ruined a family. Very sad and unnecessary. RIP Sir.," a commenter named Michail Karteros said on Twitter.
Another Twitter user by the name of "ReclaimingMe" asked, "How can a stolen snowplow be reason enough to end the life of a young father just doing his job as a police officer? So senseless."
Earlier in the day Toronto Mayor Rob Ford issued a statement saying, "On behalf of all members of City Council and every resident of Toronto, I want to extend my deepest condolences and sympathy to the family of Sergeant Ryan Russell and his colleagues in 52 Division and throughout the Toronto Police Service. His bravery and service to the City of Toronto will not be forgotten."
Ford said Toronto has the best police service in the world and Russell is an example of those who put their lives on the line to protect the city.
"They, along with our fire and emergency medical workers do their jobs selflessly every day and earn the respect and appreciation of us all," Ford said.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty also released a statement, saying, "On behalf of all Ontarians, I want to express my heartfelt sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of Toronto Police Sergeant Ryan Russell who died this morning in the line of duty. All Ontarians are shocked by this tragedy, and we stand united in supporting Sergeant Russell's family, including his wife and young child."
McGuinty said Russell's death is a grim reminder we should never take the dangers of policing for granted.
"Those who serve never know when they may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice," he said. "Coming from a police family, Sergeant Russell knew the risks involved when he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father. Let us always be grateful for the courage and sacrifice of the men and women who uphold the law and keep us safe."
The City of Toronto has lowered the flags at Toronto City Hall and all Civic Centres to half mast to honour Sergeant Russell.
During a phone interview, Meaghan Gray, Public Affairs and Community Relations with Toronto Police, said Sergeant Russell, 35, was a member of the Toronto Police Services for 11 years. He was married with one child. His father is a retired member of the police force.
Speaking by phone, Constable Tony Vella said Russell was still in the probationary period as a sergeant, as he was promoted just six months ago after having worked for more than 10 years with the Guns and Gangs Division.
Sergeant Russell's death is the first death of a police officer since 2002 when Constable Laura Ellis was killed after her car collided with another car.