Thousands of mourners, including family members, police officers from across Canada and the United States, as well as Ontario politicians, lined the halls of the Toronto Convention Center on Wednesday to celebrate the life of slain Toronto police constable, Const. Andrew Hong.
Officers solemnly greeted the funeral procession of the Toronto officer who was killed in a recent spate of shootings, as the motorcade paid tribute to his career with the force’s motorcycle unit.
By mid-morning, motorcyclists acting as honorary pallbearers accompanied the hearse through the quiet streets of Toronto as the funeral procession began.
Hundreds of uniformed police officers from Canada and the United States lined the streets along the route to greet the motorcade as it passed.
Acting Toronto Police Chief James Ramer was among the officers who greeted Hong outside the building when the hearse arrived carrying a coffin draped in a Canadian flag. The motorcade arrived shortly after four planes from the Waterloo Warbirds group of serving and retired police officers performed a “missing man” flyby in 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 devoted nearly half his life to service and was a dedicated and respected officer every day of those 22 years,” Ford said, adding that Hong was also a devoted and dedicated family man.
His family is now mourning the “indescribable loss” of a hero, Ford said.
“Sometimes these heroes make the ultimate sacrifice, like Andrew did.”
Police Services Board Chairman Jim Hart said Hong was a funny and warm “gentle giant” who enthusiastically did his job every day.
“He was a person who was steadily improving the lives of everyone in his orbit,” Hart said.
More than 7,000 people were expected for the service. It will include 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 Tim Hortons in Mississauga last week.
He was one of two victims who died shortly after the shooting, with a third dying in hospital a few days later.
Although the funeral was private, members of the public were invited to sign a book of condolences for Hong’s family and were able to watch the motorcade make their way to the funeral.
‘Larger than life’
A 22-year-old veteran, Hong has spent the past 19 years with Toronto Police Traffic Services working with a specialized motorcycle unit that provides security escorts to dignitaries like prime ministers and presidents.
The father-of-two began his police 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 valued officer who “loved to laugh with his colleagues” has “left a void” for the entire police department, the force said.
“(Hong) always made his presence known and put a smile on everyone’s face,” the force said. “He will be sorely missed, but he will live on through memories and stories.”
He is survived by his wife, two teenagers, 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 prankster and got along with everyone. His absence left a gaping hole in the hearts of our family, the police family and everyone who knew and loved Andrew.”