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Police, family gather to remember 'bright stars' killed on duty

'Rest in peace. Your team will take it from here,' former South Simcoe police chief says during funeral for Morgan Russell and Devon Northrup
A funeral service was held in Barrie on Thursday for two South Simcoe police officers killed in the line of duty last week after responding to a disturbance call at an Alcona home.

Thousands attended a funeral today in Barrie for the South Simcoe Police Service officers who were killed in Innisifil last week.

Thursday's funeral was held at Sadlon Arena on Bayview Drive, as uniformed and civilian police services members from across North America descended on the city to pay their respects to the slain officers.

Last Tuesday, while responding to a call of a “disturbance” from inside a home in Alcona, Constables Morgan Russell, 54, and Devon Northrup, 33, were shot and killed without drawing their weapons, according to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). The 22-year-old shooter was pronounced dead at the scene.

Leading up to the funeral, police officers lined the streets of Barrie for the procession to honour Russell and Northrup.

Though the funeral was not open to the public, it was streamed online for those who wanted to show their support of the fallen officers, their families and police services.

As bagpipes echoed through the arena, the caskets holding Russell and Northrup, draped in Canadian flags, were carried to the front by pallbearers in uniform. A singing of O Canada was then performed by Staff Sgt. Valerie Burns prior to a moment of silence.

“Ten days ago, I would have said our policing family is 102 sworn members strong, but today as I look out, I can see that I was wrong,” said South Simcoe police Staff Sgt. Dave Phillips. “Our policing family numbers in the thousands.”

Among the dignitaries at the service were Premier Doug Ford and Ontario Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

“This police family will endure. I know you will continue to serve and protect this community with pride and purpose,” said Ford. “You will make your brothers proud every day and you will do so with two guardian angels smiling down on you. May God bless you all and may God always bless the memories of Morgan Russell and Devon Northrup.”

“As the King’s representative and on behalf of all Ontarians, I offer my deepest condolences and my sincerest sympathies,” said Dowdeswell. “The presence here of so many of the policing family is a moving and fitting tribute. On the Ontario Police Memorial in Queen’s Park are inscribed the words, ‘Heroes in life, not death.’ This is undoubtedly true of Devon and Morgan. This is a devastating time for police and emergency services across the province.”

Less than two weeks after John Van Dyke took over as acting chief of South Simcoe police, tragedy struck with the deaths of Russell and Northrup.

“Both Morgan and Devon were respected, professional and compassionate officers who cared deeply about their communities and their colleagues,” said Van Dyke. “They both shared a dry sense of humour and loved a good laugh. The outpouring of love and support from our communities and policing partners has been incredibly moving, but it also serves as a stark reminder of the tremendous risks that are inherent in this profession — risks that no one can really be prepared for.

"People sleep safe in their bed at night because dedicated police officers are out there doing tough jobs. We owe a debt to all that wear the badge," he added. 

Van Dyke took over for retired chief Andrew Fletcher, who spoke about keeping the memories of the officers alive by continuing their strong work in the communities they loved.

“I had the pleasure of working with both Devon and Mo (Russell) and have many cherished memories of interactions with the two of them,” said Fletcher. “Our pain is still very raw, but we cannot allow events like this to define who we are. Today is a time to mourn. Although over time the tears may fade, the memories will not. Today we say goodbye, but it is not the last day we will remember their service and sacrifice. Rest in peace. Your team will take it from here.”

South Simcoe Police Services Board chair Chris Gariepy promised the families of the officers and the community support will be there and Russell’s and Northrup’s sacrifices will never be forgotten.

“We will forever be grateful for their courage and their commitment to strong community policing,” he said. “Const. Russell gave 33 years of service to our communities with many accomplishments and accolades to his name. He cared deeply about the communities he served and continued to protect us past his retirement date. Const. Northrup was a bright light who grew up in a policing family. In his six years with the service, he had already made a significant difference. It’s so difficult for us to comprehend the circumstances of last week.

“Officers Northrup and Russell were bright stars with our service. When we look into the bright night sky, look and see two twinkling stars in the distance, and take a bit of time to reflect and remember our fallen officers. Morgan and Devon, you will not be forgotten and will always be in our hearts.”

South Simcoe Police Association president Sgt. Leah Thomas attended the ceremony both as a representative for the police service members and as a friend of Russell and Northrup.

“These two incredible human beings were the epitome of gentlemen,” she said. “They were the embodiment of our core values — teamwork, integrity, respect, inclusive, courageous, professional, accountable, and compassionate. Policing wasn’t simply a job for Morgan and Devon; it was their calling. Devon and Mo had our backs and now we have yours (their families’).”

Northrup’s spouse and fellow South Simcoe police officer, Annie Romard, older brother, Brock, and parents, Ron and Heather, who are retired RCMP officers, spoke about the person Northrup was and his love for laughter.

“Devon was one of the bravest people I’ve ever met and today he would want me to be brave,” said Romard. “Tuesday, Oct. 11 started out like any other day in our house. We woke up, made a fresh pot of coffee and had a dance party in the kitchen, even though both of us are terrible dancers. I wrapped my arms around him like I always did and said, ‘I love you so much.’ Devon had the biggest heart and held those he loved close to him. His humour and overall presence are irreplaceable and I already miss him so much. He will forever be my biggest coach, officer and supporter. I will love you forever and you are my hero.”

“You will always be my little Dev. We were as close as brothers could be,” said Brock. “Nobody makes me laugh like you. You were the absolute rock to this family. To your friends and your family and to me, you are a hero. I’ll end on a quote from one of our favourite shows we watched together, The Wire: ‘Because, brother, when you were good, you were the best we had.’ And we love you.”

“As parents losing a child to a premature, violent death, it’s unbelievably painful,” said Ron. “We are forever crushed by the loss of our beautiful son and the future he was robbed of. We couldn’t be prouder of Devon.”

Russell’s wife, Marisa, and daughters, Madelaine and Maggie, expressed how lucky they felt to have had “Mo” in their lives.

“On the evening of Oct. 11, my husband, Morgan, prepared for night shift as he always did,” said Marisa. “He hugged the three of us, told us he loved us, and we waved at the window as he drove away. In the wee hours of Oct. 12, Madelaine, Maggie and I lost our source of strength, our confidant and our adviser. Morgan was truly the kindest, most loyal and loving husband and daddy that anyone could ever want.”

“I don’t think I am capable of loving anyone as much as I loved my daddy,” said Madelaine. “Every single day, I could count on him to tell me, ‘I love you, I’m so proud of you, and you’re so cute.’

“I pray that no one else has to go through this. I am so lucky to have had him for 25 years. I love you, Daddy, forever.”

The funeral service can be viewed here.

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Rob Paul

About the Author: Rob Paul

Rob Paul is a journalist with NewmarketToday. He has a passion for sports and community feature stories
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