Thousands of mourners including family members, police officers from across Canada and the US as well as Ontario politicians lined the halls of the Toronto Congress Center Wednesday to the life of slain Toronto police officer Const. Andrew Hong.
Police officers gave solemn salutes to the funeral cortege for the Toronto officer who was killed in a recent series of shootings, as the procession paid tribute to his career with the force’s motorcycle unit.
By mid-morning, motorcycle officers acting as honorary pallbearers accompanied the hearse along quiet Toronto streets as the funeral procession began.
Hundreds of uniformed officers from police forces across Canada and the US lined the streets along the route to salute the process as it passed.
Interim Toronto police chief James Ramer was among the officers who saluted Hong outside the building as the hearse arrived carrying a casket draped in a Canadian flag. The procession arrived shortly after four planes from the Waterloo Warbirds group made up of active and retired police officers performed a “missing man” flyover in a tribute to Hong.
Premier Doug Ford spoke at the service and praised Hong’s public service during his 22-year career as a police officer.
“He is dedicated almost half of his life to the service, and was a dutiful and respected officer every day of those 22 years,” Ford said, adding that Hong was also a dedicated and dutiful family man.
His family is now grieving the “unspeakable loss” of a hero, Ford said.
“Sometimes these heroes make the ultimate sacrifice, as Andrew did.”
Upwards of 7,000 people were expected to attend the service. It will feature eulogies from Hong’s wife Jenny and daughter Mia, as well as tributes from Ford, Toronto Mayor John Tory, Ramer, and Toronto Police Association president Jon Reid.
Hong, 48, died in what police described as an unprovoked and deadly “ambush” during his lunch break at a Mississauga Tim Hortons last week.
He was one of two victims who died shortly after the shootings, with a third dying in hospital days later.
While the funeral is private, members of the public have been invited to sign a book of condolences for Hong’s family, and were able to watch the procession make its way to the funeral service.
‘Larger than life’
A 22-year veteran, Hong spent the past 19 years with Toronto police traffic services working with a specialized motorcycle unit that provides security escorts for dignitaries like prime ministers and presidents.
The father of two began his policing career in 2000, moved to traffic services two years later and “found his passion in the Motor Squad” in 2008, Toronto Police Services said.
Biographical notes from the force described Hong as “extremely passionate about his work” and said he excelled in his role as a motorcycle instructor, where he helped train other officers.
The loss of the collegial and well-liked officer who “loved to laugh with his colleagues” has “left a void” for the entire police service, the force said.
“(Hong) always made his presence known and put a smile on everyone’s face,” the force said. “He will be missed immensely, but will live on through memories and stories.”
He’s survived by his wife, two teenage children, a boy and a girl, and his parents.
In the public statement the day after his death, the family described Hong as “a man of steel on the outside with a warm teddy bear personality on the inside.”
“His personality was larger than life,” said the Hong family, who also asked for privacy during this time.
“He was a practical joker and got along with everyone. His absence has left a gaping hole in the heart of our family, the police family, and everyone who knew and loved Andrew.”