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Police funeral will be 'unlike anything the city has ever seen'

Barrie police anticipate thousands of officers to descend on the city from all over North America on Thursday

The joint funeral for two South Simcoe police officers killed in the line of duty last week in Innisfil will take place at Sadlon Arena on Thursday, the scale of which will be unlike anything this city has ever witnessed, says a Barrie police official. 

Const. Morgan Russell, 54, and Const. Devon Northrup, 33, were shot while responding to a disturbance call at an Alcona home on Oct. 11.

Barrie police communications co-ordinator Peter Leon told BarrieToday that the funeral would be “a significant event and unlike anything the city has ever seen.”

Details began to emerge early Sunday morning. The funeral service will begin at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Sadlon Arena, located at 555 Bayview Dr.

“There needed to be a location that would accommodate the number of police officers that are anticipated to come and pay their respects and give both these officers the funeral they deserve,” Leon told BarrieToday on Sunday. “They paid the ultimate sacrifice in protecting their community and we know that police officers will be coming from all over the country and even North America.”

Leon said it was hard to put an exact number on how many officers will descend on the region that day, but said a recent funeral in Toronto for an officer had “upwards of 8,000 officers and we are planning for a similar type of crowd.”

The exact details are still being completed and more information regarding routes that will be blocked or heavily congested are expected to be available Monday.

Members of the public are invited to watch the funeral procession as it travels from Adams Funeral Home and Cremation Services, located at 445 St. Vincent St., and Steckley-Gooderham Funeral Homes, at 30 Worsley St., to Sadlon Arena in south-end Barrie.

The funeral service is not open to the public, but South Simcoe police say it will include other police services and emergency service personnel. Broadcast information will also be made in the coming days.

Private visitations for Russell and Northrup are taking place for family, friends and colleagues the day prior to the funeral and will not be open to the media or the public.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) says the two officers did not draw their guns before being shot inside the Somers Boulevard house in Alcona around 8 p.m., Oct. 11, after responding to a disturbance call placed by a family member at the home. A third officer did exchange gunfire with the 22-year-old man, who was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy on the man, identified as Chris Doncaster, was scheduled for Friday. 

The wounded officers were rushed to the hospital by emergency run where Northrup died. Russell was airlifted to a Toronto trauma centre and also died of his injuries early Wednesday morning. 

Condolences for the officers have been pouring in from across the region, province and country over the last several days.

On Friday morning, Russell and Northrup's bodies were transported from the Office of the Chief Coroner in Toronto and up Highway 400 to two Barrie funeral homes for preparation for Thursday’s funeral.

“When a tragedy like this occurs, communities come together. We are all grieving alongside our neighbouring police force and community and are here to support them in anyway we can," said Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman. "The City of Barrie is honoured to provide the venue and assist with logistics so people can come together to pay respects to these two heroes — Const. Morgan Russell and Const. Devon Northrup.”

Leon said while Barrie police will continue to assist their colleagues at South Simcoe Police Service through the week and the day of the funerals.  

“There is no doubt, the logistics of this sombre event are huge, but we still have a responsibility and so do all the other services. There are plans in place to maintain the policing expectation for our community and any communities affected by this funeral,” said Leon. 

Now in his 35th year involved with policing, Leon, who is retired from the OPP, said he has attended police funerals in the past, but nothing like what is expected on Thursday.

“I can honestly say I have never been to the funeral of two officers killed in the line of duty," he said. "Even as a now civilian member of the Barrie police, this hits very close to home. South Simcoe police are our neighbours, our friends and colleagues. We want to do whatever we can to assist them in this horrific tragedy. Not only does this affect them, but it does so across the country.

"Law enforcement is a proud profession and every officer knows that each work day doesn't guarantee coming home. Constables Russell and Northrup did not come home, and we are all grieving for them and their families because of it," he added.