Ontario's police watchdog has released stunning details about the October evening two South Simcoe police officers were shot and killed in an Innisfil house.
A report issued by the province's Special Investigation's Unit (SIU) has determined a South Simcoe police officer didn't commit any crimes when he fired upon a man who had fatally shot two other police officers.
Const. Morgan Russell, 54, Const. Devon Northrup, 33, and a third officer were responding to a call of a “disturbance” from inside a home on Somers Boulevard on Oct. 11, 2022, near the area of 25th Sideroad and 9 Line.
The report stated that a woman called police asking them to remove a family member (Chris Doncaster) from the home who had broken her eyeglasses and punched a hole in the wall.
When asked by the communications operator if any weapons were involved, the homeowner interrupted the operator saying, “no…no.” When asked if Doncaster had been drinking or using drugs, the homeowner stated, “no, not that I know of.” It was later confirmed Doncaster had consumed alcohol.
At approximately 8:33 p.m. the first officer responded to the dispatch and at approximately 8:45 p.m., three officers had responded to the domestic call in separate cruisers.
Upon ringing the doorbell they were invited inside the home. To the officers’ right, as they entered the home, was a flight of stairs to the basement, which was dark. To the left was a set of five stairs leading to the upstairs level.
Upon reaching the upper step, an officer met with one of Doncaster’s family members when gunshots rang out. Looking back, the officer saw both Russell and Northrup down with gunshot wounds and immediately drew his gun and began shooting down the stairs.
The officer screamed “shots fired, shots fired, we need help now!” over the SSPS radio transmission at approximately 8:47 p.m. The officer screamed 21 seconds later “officers down, officers down, we need backup now!”
The officer fired 12 to 14 rounds before reloading and calling out, “police.” There was no response. The officer looked down the stairs and saw Doncaster in a pool of blood with a rifle in his hands.
At approximately 8:50 p.m. the officer transmitted “suspect’s down, I need, I need ambulance right away.”
Neither Russell nor Northrup had their weapons drawn at the time Doncaster fired up the stairs 11 times. The SIU said the gunman, who was wearing a ballistic vest, "waited in ambush" at the bottom of the dark basement stairs and fired at the officers multiple times.
The officer on the scene and other first responders administered life saving efforts to Russell and Northrup before they were taken to the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie where Northrup died. Russell was airlifted to a Toronto trauma centre, before succumbing to his injuries.
When the SIU arrived on the scene, 12 empty .40 calibre cartridges were located around the house, along with 11 empty 7.62mm cartridges.
In the basement, Doncaster’s body was located on the floor of the room. He was wearing a pair of gloves on his hands that were in handcuffs behind his back. His face was covered with blood and a large area of the floor around him was stained with blood.
Near his body, on the floor, was a Sergi Gravrilovich Simonov (SKS) semi-automatic rifle. In an open gun safe in the basement bedroom, a .22 calibre semi-automatic rifle was found with three viable 7.62mm cartridges in the vicinity.
The SIU report states the officer's gunfire caused a "graze wound" to Doncaster's lower left leg, but it did not kill him. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
"We are relieved that this process has been completed and that the officer was determined to be legally justified in his actions," South Simcoe Police Chief John Van Dyke said in a statement.
"Of course, no investigation can ever bring back our beloved fallen officers, Morgan Russell and Devon Northrup, but at least we can now close one chapter of this tragedy."
The SIU is an independent government agency that investigates the conduct of officials that may have resulted in death, serious injury, sexual assault and/or the discharge of a firearm at a person. All investigations are conducted by SIU investigators who are civilians.