From as far as the United States to the province of Ontario, officers, members of the RCMP, emergency service employees and civilians filled the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to attend Russell’s funeral in a hall that seated 10,000 people.
Russell, 35, was killed last Wednesday trying to stop a stolen snowplow while he was on duty in the Avenue Road and Dupont Street area.
In tributes delivered by Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, Supt. Hugh Ferguson and Russell’s wife Christine, the 11-year veteran was praised for being a great role model and friend to his colleagues and family members.
“Ryan always put himself before anyone else,” Russell said. “On January 12, this cost him his life.”
Fighting back tears, she thanked her husband’s father Glenn, a former officer in the Toronto police office, for being Russell’s hero and inspiration.
Blair said that while the day was a sad one for the police service, it was also a day of celebration to remember a fallen hero.
“Ryan Russell was truly a hero not because of the tragic circumstances that took him from us, but because of the decision that he made to answer the call of duty. He was determined to make a difference in his community. He chose to dedicate himself to the service of others,” Blair said.
Supt. Hugh Ferguson, recognized Russell for not only his loyalty to his job, but described him as a dedicated family man.
“Ryan showed he was a great leader. He was a proud father, loving husband and a very proud police officer,” Ferguson said. “Rest in peace, my friend. You are truly a hero in life, not death.”
Seeing the outpour of support for Russell’s family, Sgt. Darcy Moore is grateful for the number of officers from the police community and the number of regular citizens who have showed up to pay their respects.
“I’d like to thank not only the community but all the officers across the province and throughout Canada [for their support]. These times are very difficult times for our service and especially for the family.”
Reta Salin, who immigrated to Toronto from Iraq in 1983, said she attended the service because she greatly depends on the Toronto Police Service to keep her safe.
“His death is painful because he helped those in need. It is a blessing to have police people to take the initiative knowing that [people’s] lives are on their shoulders.”
Ted Wieclawek, an assistant deputy fire marshal with Toronto’s Fire Protection Services, was there to show his support for the Russell family and the Toronto Police Service.
Wieclawek, who has worked with the Fire Protection Services for 20 years, said he was amazed at the number of people who gathered to remember the fallen officer.
“As a member of the broader emergency services, I think it’s a phenomenal and genuine outpouring of support for Ryan Russell and as well, for the family and members of the Toronto Police Service,” he said.
Iris Macdonald was in attendance because she recognizes that police officers take many risks in order to shield citizens from harm.
“Being a policeman can be a very dangerous job,” said Macdonald, 75. “You never know when you’re going out in the morning that you will come back at night.”
Knowing that police officers risk their lives every day to protect the community, Wieclawek is appreciative.
“We rely on them to keep our community safe and it’s a tremendously important function faced with a lot of dangers and I’m just grateful that we have a phenomenal police force in the province of Ontario,” he said.
Officers march and fill the streets of Downtown Toronto commemorating Sgt. Ryan Russell, who was murdered on the line of duty. (Photo from the Ottawa Citizen)