New details released about suspects charged in shooting death of OPP officer
New details have been released about the two suspects charged in connection with the fatal shooting of an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer near Hagersville, Ont. on Tuesday afternoon.
Randall McKenzie, 25, from the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and Brandi Stewart-Sperry, 30, from Hamilton, are each facing first-degree murder in the shooting death of Const. Grzegorz "Greg" Pierzchala.
In an update on Wednesday evening, OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said McKenzie had been banned from owning any firearm for life since 2018. Three years later, in 2021, McKenzie was charged with several firearms-related offences and assaulting a police officer.
Carrique said McKenzie was released on bail on a number of conditions, including remaining in his residence and not possessing any firearms. He was supposed to answer to the charges in September of this year, the commissioner said, but he failed to attend court. A warrant was later issued for his arrest.
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"Needless to say, the murder of Const. Greg was preventable. This should have never happened. Something needs to change. Our police officers, your police officers, my police officers, the public deserve to be safeguarded against violent offenders who are charged with firearms-related offences," the commissioner said.
"I'm outraged by the fact that McKenzie was out on bail and was provided the opportunity to take the life of an innocent officer. And I know that there's a lot of interest in ensuring to see that changes are made to ensure, where possible, people who are charged with violent offences that are firearms related are not in those positions moving forward.
McKenzie and Stewart-Sperry appeared in a Cayuga court on Wednesday afternoon via video. They have been ordered by the court not to communicate with numerous people, including potential crown witnesses, her co-accused, and the family of the victim.
They are both due back in court on Jan. 17.
Randall McKenzie (left) and Brandi Crystal Lyn Stewart-Sperry are seen in these court sketches. (CTV News Toronto/Alexandra Newbould)
Officer was 'ambushed'
Carrique said Pierzchala was "essentially ambushed" when he attended the intersection of Indian Line and Concession 14 to respond to a call about a vehicle in a ditch and "stood absolutely no chance of being able to defend himself."
The commissioner said the two suspects also allegedly stole a vehicle which they used to flee the scene. They later ditched that vehicle and ran on foot to evade arrest. However, officers were able to track and arrest them.
Carrique would not say where exactly the suspects were apprehended but said it was within "close proximity."
As for the motive and the circumstances, the commissioner said they have not been determined but are part of the ongoing investigation.
Carrique noted that Pierzchala was equipped with a body-worn camera.
"That will form part obviously of the evidence that the investigators are working with, as well as they are seeking independent witnesses to the events which will form part of their canvas that they will be commencing tomorrow. So despite having some video evidence, we are relying on members of the community who saw anything to cooperate with the investigation," he said.
The commissioner also further paid tribute to Pierzchala during the news conference. He said the 28-year-old, who had been with the OPP for over a year, was highly regarded and respected by his colleagues despite his short stint with the force.
"They knew they could rely upon him in the most dangerous and stressful of situations. He was taken from us untimely by this tragic murder," Carrique said.
He added that funeral arrangements are being made and details will be shared at a later date.
Greg Pierzchala seen in this undated photo was shot and killed in a shooting near Hagersville, Ont. on Dec. 27, 2022. (Twitter/OPP)
Insp. Phil Carter, the OPP Haldimand County detachment commander, also honoured Pierzchala, calling his death an "unimaginable and heartbreaking loss."
"He was a son, a brother and a friend, and he's no longer with us," Carter said. "And that hurts."
"The people of Haldimand County, Mississaugas of the Credit, Six Nations never got to see Greg's bright promise grow into the impressive and exemplary law enforcement career that seemed almost predestined. But we saw glimpses of that future before he was taking from us," he added.
On Wednesday morning, Shelley Ann Bentley, the mayor of Haldimand County, said her community is in shock and grieving.
“It was devastating to hear that one of our officers had been shot so violently, that is not something that we are used to in Haldimand County at all. We are a community of 48,000 people and we do not have this type of violence in our community, it is shocking,” she told CP24 Wednesday morning.
At around 11:50 p.m. on Tuesday, a procession was held for Pierzchala as his body was taken from West Haldimand Hospital to The Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto.
Officers from the OPP and Six Nations Police participated in the procession and were met by members of Toronto police, fire and paramedics.
In the wake of the shooting, CTV News Public Safety Analyst and Former OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis said policing protocols regarding these types of calls will likely be reviewed.
"They always are reviewed after a tragedy, whether it's a tactical operation or something like a so-called routine stop. Violence occurs, officers above will look at a variety of issues in terms of training, policy, kind of command and control, personal safety, equipment and all of that to see if anything can be learned. And sometimes nothing can," he told CP24 on Wednesday.
Grzegorz Pierzchala seen in this undated photo was killed in a shooting near Hagersville, Ont. on Dec. 27, 2022. (Supplied)
Bentley, who didn’t know Pierzchala personally, said she heard he was actively involved in the community.
“I have seen a picture of him at the Caledonia fair recently. He seemed to be, you know, community minded, just like all of us here in our community,” she said.
Haldimand County's mayor said the community will be supporting frontline officers during this difficult time.
“We also provide any services for them to be able to get back into their lives. I'm sure that the first responders that reacted to the scene are devastated today. I can't even imagine what they are going through today,” she said.
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