Ontario’s police watchdog released new details Thursday about a shooting that killed two police officers and a youth at a home north of Toronto.
A South Simcoe police officer died in hospital and a 22-year-old man died at home after a shooting Tuesday night in Innisfil, Ont., the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) says.
In an email Thursday, SIU spokeswoman Christy Dennett told CBC News that “based on preliminary information,” the two slain officers were unarmed when they were shot.
“A third officer who was in the home engaged in an exchange of fire with the man,” Dennett said, adding that the suspect had an SKS semi-automatic rifle. The SIU had earlier listed the man’s age as 23, but later corrected it to 22.
A spokesman for the watchdog says police were called to the home by family members at the residence and an autopsy on the man is scheduled for Friday.
The South Simcoe Police Service has identified the slain officers as Const. Devon Northrup — who worked with the outreach and mental health teams — and Const. Morgan Russell, a trained crisis negotiator.
A vigil was held at Innisfil Community Church on Wednesday night to honor the lives of the officers.
Links to Armed Forces
Residents expressing shock at the incident say an elderly couple with an adult grandson lived in the house where the shooting took place.
The SIU said the suspect’s identity will not be released at this time without the family’s permission.
However, CBC Toronto has learned that Christopher Joseph Doncaster, whose 23rd birthday was on Oct. 23, lives with his grandparents, Donna Rose Doncaster, 76, and Glenn Doncaster, 83, who own the home where the shooting took place. .
Neighbor Tom Wilson said he was outside talking to Glenn Doncaster around 5:00 p.m. the night of the shooting.
He said he was getting ready to leave when his grandson got into his truck and Doncaster said, “Oh, there’s Chris.”
Wilson said he was friendly with his neighbors on the street and had never seen any signs of trouble or violence.
He said that he had not spoken to his neighbors after the incident.
“It’s tough,” Wilson said.
A spokesperson for the Department of National Defense said in an email to CBC News that Christopher Doncaster was a member of the Canadian Forces from May to December 2020.
A spokesman said Doncaster was a private organization with no deployment history that did not complete basic training.
Also, financial records reviewed by CBC Toronto show Doncaster owes about $46,000 on the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500. Police towed a silver truck of the same make and model from the scene of the shooting Wednesday afternoon.
The records also show that he lived in the house where the shooting took place.
Tough days for the police force
South Simcoe Staff Sgt. David Phillips told reporters on Thursday that the small uniformed police force of 102 was bearing the brunt of the killings.
“It’s been incredibly difficult the last couple of days. We’re getting through it with the support of our community,” he said.
“It’s like any small workplace, you know everybody.”
Plans are currently underway for police funerals for Northrup and Russell, Phillips said, and the service is setting up a book of condolence on its website.
Mark Baxter, president of the Police Association of Ontario, said the police community was shocked by the deaths of the officers.
“It’s a great loss for our entire police family,” Baxter told CBC Radio. Metro in the morning Thursday.
“We may never understand or know the ‘why’ … but hopefully investigators will get more information and more background that can give the families and the officers’ colleagues some closure.”
Baxter said he was in disbelief that this would happen again in the province. Northrup and Russell are the third and fourth police officers killed in Ontario in the past month.
On Sept. 12, Toronto Police Const. Andrew Hong was killed in what police called an “ambush” during a series of shootings that left two dead and three wounded.
On Sept. 14, York Regional Police Const. Travis Gillespie was hit head-on by a car and died at the scene.