An officer with the Ontario Provincial Police was killed in the line of duty on Thursday on Manitoulin Island.
A civilian is also dead, according to Ontario’s police watchdog.
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) says OPP officers were sent to investigate an unwanted man on a property in Gore Bay, a community on the north-east coast of the island. The two officers, from the Manitoulin detachment, were following up on a property dispute investigation, according to the OPP.
When they arrived, an officer was shot and killed, the SIU said. He has been identified as 52-year-old Const. Marc Hovingh, a 28-year veteran of the force. He was married with four children.
Police say that the man on the property was also shot, and died after being taken to hospital. He will not be identified until all next of kin have been notified, said the OPP.
The OPP had earlier in the day reported a heavy police presence near Gore Bay in the area of Scotland Road, Hindman Trail and 10th Road on Manitoulin Island. Gore Bay is a town of fewer than 900 people on the north-eastern coast of Manitoulin Island and one of only two incorporated municipalities. The island sits in Lake Huron and is the largest freshwater island in the world.
“As big as we are, we are very small,” said Mayor Dan Osborne, who knew Hovingh personally. “The OPP play a big part in our community.”
“It’s just devastating for the whole community and I cannot imagine what his family will be going through. I just hope that everybody has them in their prayers tonight and going forward,” said Osborne, with emotion.
Osborne said there is no substance to rumours circulating on social media that Hovingh died in a hunting accident.
Initial reports also suggested a second officer had been shot, but officials say that’s not the case.
Scott Mills, spokesperson for the Ontario Provincial Police Association, told CBC News that he and his members were extremely saddened to hear of Hovingh’s sudden death.
“OPP officers in rural areas are very highly respected in their community, both on and off duty. They are the pillar of the community, it’s a hero for the community that’s fallen when something tragic like this happens.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement he was “deeply saddened” by the news. The provincial government lowered flags to half mast.
‘He was always laughing’
Hours after he was killed, mourners gathered — physically distanced — at the Mindemoya Missionary Church, which Hovingh attended for 20 years.
Ben Quackenbush said the first thing people would notice about Hovingh was his size, but he “never used that to be intimidating. He was always a gentle giant and a big teddy bear.”
Quackenbush says Hovingh was a model police officer and Christian.
Hovingh would entertain kids at the church on Sundays and loved to take people out on his boat, he added
“Joyful, I think when I think of Marc. He was always smiling and he was always laughing.”