Denise Devlin-Li never met the fallen Toronto police officer. But she felt compelled to pay her respects to Const. Jeffrey Northrup, whose death she described as “tragic.”
“If you see his face, which I did on the news, he’s just so kind looking,” she said outside the funeral home in Thornhill, where a public visitation was held on Sunday evening. “Wherever the service would have been, we would have gone.”
Over several hours, dozens of neighbours, friends, fellow officers and strangers wishing to honour Northrup passed through the funeral home, where a banner with photos of the constable hung outside the doors. It read: “Forever in our hearts.”
Northrup died early in the morning on July 2, after he and his partner were hit by a vehicle in an underground parking garage near city hall in what police have described as an “intentional, deliberate act.” The officers were responding to a 911 call about a robbery when they were struck. Northrup’s partner was treated in hospital for injuries and released.
Umar Zameer, 31, is charged with first-degree murder in Northrup’s death.
Northrup’s death has shaken current and former Toronto police officers, who are mourning the loss of a colleague they have described as deeply committed to the service and to his family —“an absolute gentleman with a heart of gold.”
Arjun Singh, 20, attended the public visitation with friends on Sunday evening. He said he feels it is “incumbent on all of us to honour those who make such a sacrifice.”
“He was tragically killed … just doing his duty,” Singh said.
For Jacob Fox, the visitation was an opportunity to learn about and honour who this officer was, beyond his role as a police constable.
“He could be someone like my dad,” Fox said. “He’s someone’s father, someone’s son, someone’s friend.”
An invitation-only funeral will be held for Northrup at BMO Field on Monday at 1 p.m. The tribute will begin at 10:30 a.m., with a procession of service members marching eastbound along the Lakeshore, up Canada Boulevard and across Princes’ Boulevard, into the stadium.
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It is the first time a Toronto police officer has been intentionally killed in a decade, since the death of Sgt. Ryan Russell in 2011. Richard Kachkar, who was in a psychotic state when he hit Russell with a stolen snowplow, was found not criminally responsible in the officer’s death.
Northrup started his 31-year career with the Toronto Police Service in Court Services, before becoming a police officer and joining 11 Division in 1999. He was assigned to 52 Division in 2008.
His obituary on the Kane-Jerrett Funeral Home’s website includes “A Police Officer’s Prayer,” which asks for “courage to take me where others will not go” and “dedication to my community to keep it safe.”
A tribute video includes a photo of Northrup in his dress uniform in 1999, the year he joined 11 Division. There is a photo of Northrup with his wife, Margaret, smiling at their wedding. And many of Northrup, a father of three, with his kids — Brennen, Samantha and Mitchell. He is cradling a newborn in the hospital; balancing a toddler on his shoulders; wearing a Santa hat at Christmas.
Northrup, 55, also leaves behind his mother, Dianne.
His family has asked that donations be made to Special Olympics Brampton. Wendi Best, the charity’s Brampton community co-ordinator, said that the idea came from Northrup, whose daughter is a Special Olympics athlete. She said Northrup often cheered on his daughter when she competed in T-ball and rhythmic gymnastics, while his wife and sons helped organize events.
“He was quiet. He wasn’t the screamer in the stands like me. But when he was there he was around the athletes. He was around the kids,” Best said. “They are a working together family.”
A Toronto police officer has started a petition to rename a portion of Dundas Street, where 52 Division is located, after Northrup. Renaming the street after Northrup would be an “incredible way to honour this hero, and to show his family that his sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Const. Andrew Nanton wrote in the petition, which had garnered nearly 6,000 signatures by Sunday evening.
City council is set to vote next week on whether to find a new name for the Dundas Street, which was named for Henry Dundas, a Scottish lawyer and British colonial minister who is said to have prolonged the slave trade.
With files from Gilbert Ngabo and Ben Cohen
Rachel Mendleson is a Toronto-based investigative reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rachelmendleson
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