OPP have announced charges in the death of a Haldimand County OPP officer yesterday afternoon (Dec. 27) in an area that straddles both Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and Hagersville, Ontario.
Randall McKenzie, 25, of Kingston, and Brandi Crystal Lyn Stewart-Sperry, 30, of Hamilton, have been charged with first degree murder in the death of OPP officer Greg Pierzchala, 28. The pair appeared via video in a Cayuga court Wednesday afternoon.
Police say around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Pierzchala was responding to reports of a stolen 2021 black Chevrolet truck that had landed in the ditch on Townline near Concession 14, just west of Ojibway Road between Hagersville and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation (MCFN).
According to police, the suspects opened fire on the officer, who police believe did not have a chance to draw his own weapon. Police reported to EMS that the officer received gunshot wounds to the chest and leg, and was transported to a nearby hospital with life-threatening injuries, where he later died.
The two suspects fled in the stolen vehicle, and then on foot into the bush behind a home on Mississauga Road on the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. Police issued an Ontario-wide shelter in place order as they searched for the suspects.
The woman was found nearby and arrested at a site just off Ojibway Road at around 6:30 p.m. while the man was apprehended east of that location around 6:50 p.m. in a field near Ojibway Road. Both remain in custody. The area of the shooting, arrest, and path of flight for both suspects is still an active crime scene and traffic is currently closed along Townline Road, Ojibway Road and Mississaugas Road.
There were reports from communcations that McKenzie was carrying a 9 mm handgun, and requested emergency medical assistance following his arrest, claiming he had a broken back. He was transported to Brantford General Hospital Tuesday evening. OPP did not confirm if Mckenzie did sustain any injuries, how or when, but during his court appearance was not medically restricted. There has not been any announcement of an SIU investigation into the circumstances around his arrest. TRT has reached out to the SIU to confirm if Mckenzie did sustain injuries during his arrest and if a pending investigation is being considered. No response was available by press time.
The OPP held a press conference this evening in Hagersville attended by OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique to provide an update.
— Two Row Times (@TwoRowTimes) December 29, 2022
The commissioner said Pierzchala was only on the scene for a short period of time and was ambushed and “stood no chance” to defend himself.
The suspects had robbed a citizen at gunpoint to obtain the stolen truck, Carrique revealed.
Carrique said he was “outraged” that McKenzie was out on bail and “provided the opportunity” to kill the officer.
Carrique said since 2018, Mckenzie had been prohibited for life from possessing firearms and in 2021 was charged with firearm offences and was to remain in his residence. He failed to attend court on Sept. 6 and had a warrant out for his arrest.
“Needless to say, this was preventable,” said Carrique. “This should have never happened. Something needs to change. The public deserves to be safeguarded against offenders who are charged with firearm related offences.”
He said the OPP criminal investigations branch will be canvassing for witnesses.
“If you saw anything please share this information with our officers.” Carrique said that the investigation is going to heavily rely on eyewitnesses coming forward and urged anyone with information to reach out to police.
Pierzchala was just informed on the day he was killed that he had just completed his probation, Carrique said.
The young officer had earned himself a “highly regarded reputation” in the short time he was with the OPP.
“They knew they could rely upon him.”
Early Wednesday morning OPP, Six Nations Police and EMT services honoured Constable Pierzchala with a transport convoy as his body was taken to the Chief Coroners office in Toronto.
Early this morning, a large gathering of OPP & other police officers, first responders & community members stood together in solidarity as Provincial Constable Grzegorz Pierzchala made his way from West Haldimand Hospital to the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario in Toronto. pic.twitter.com/TWWvW5NA3w
— Thomas Carrique (@OPPCommissioner) December 28, 2022
The officer was wearing a body cam during the incident and will be used in the investigation.
Carrique thanked Six Nations Police for assisting them in searching for the suspects.
OPP are the police conducting the investigation and laying charges in this case, however Six Nations Police was involved in Tuesdays events. Commissioner Carrique said that any jurisdictional issues that arise during a case where SNP and the OPP work to support one another are typically quickly resolved.
“There’s always jurisdictional considerations but I can tell you the interoperability and cooperation between OPP and Six Nations Police is seamless. Chief Darren Montour and his officers are some of the most professional police officers in this province and we enjoy a close working relationship with them and they have been at our side the entire time, and truly integrated into our team,” said Carrique.
A funeral for Pierzchala is being planned in the coming days.
Haldimand County OPP Inspector Phil Carter expressed condolences to the family.
“He was a son, a brother and a friend and he’s no longer with us and that hurts.”
Insp. Carter said the young officer seemed to have a “pre-destined exemplary career” ahead of him.
“I’ve been heartened by the many heartfelt expressions of sympathy by the members of the community,” said Carter. “There are going to be difficult days before us but I’m very comforted to know we’re not going to carry that burden alone.”
Pierzchala had served in the armed forces and as a special constable at Queen’s Park.
He had also patrolled at the Caledonia Fair this past fall. He had just passed his 10-month probation.
First degree murder carries a life sentence in Canada with no possibility of parole until 25 years.
Elected Chief Mark Hill expressed his condolences and called the incident a “senseless act of violence.”
This incident is heartbreaking, and a result of a needless, senseless act of violence. I am sending my deepest condolences to Officer Pierzchala’s loved ones and to the entire OPP family on this devastating loss. May he rest in peace. https://t.co/GQtuWEIYmf
— Chief Mark Hill (@SixNationsChief) December 28, 2022
“I also want to thank the Ontario Provincial Police, the Six Nations Police, and all other services who supported this operation for their swift apprehension of the suspects and for continuing to keep our communities safe,” he wrote in a press release.
The Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, which is just a stone’s throw away from where the incident took place, issued a statement on its Facebook page and opened the community centre on Tuesday night as a place for the community to gather and offer each other support.
“The Mississaugas of the Credit sends their condolences and heartfelt prayers to the family and friends of the OPP officer who was tragically shot and killed today (Tuesday).”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford also issued a statement on Pierzchala’s death.
“OPP Provincial Constable Grzegorz Pierzchala was killed while honouring his oath to protect his province. He represents the best of us.”
“My prayers are with him, his family and his friends,” said Ford. “It’s impossible to understand their grief right now. Ontario is thinking of you.”