Sgt. Ryan Russell‘s widow, Christine Russell, calls the 10th anniversary of her late husband’s tragic death bittersweet.
She said every day since the 35-year-old was killed the line of duty has been difficult, but she’s tried to shield her son Nolan, who was only two at the time, by not talking about how his father died.
Christine said she has focused her attention on raising him and is proud of doing that, describing Nolan as a pretty typical child. He loves gaming, loves playing Fortnight and he’s a really good golfer showing off his golf trophies during a Zoom call.
“He just had his 12th birthday in December and if you saw a photo of him now you would think he’s Ryan’s little junior. He’s cute as can be, he still has the blond hair, the blue eyes,” explained Christine.
It was on Jan. 12, 2011, when Russell, an 11-year-veteran of the Toronto Police Service, was killed as he was trying to stop a man driving a stolen snowplow on Avenue Road near Davenport Road.
Forty-six-year-old Richard Kachkar was charged with the first-degree murder, but after a lengthy trial the defence successfully argued that Kachkar was not criminally responsible. Last July, Kachkar, originally from St. Catharines, was granted a full discharge by the Ontario Review Board.
On Tuesday, a small ceremony was held inside 52 Division where Russell worked when he was killed while officers from the mounted unit paid their respects outdoors.
Chief Jim Ramer spoke, as did Pastor Wendell Gibbs and Supt. Hugh Ferguson, who was Russell’s boss at the time. Ferguson read part of the eulogy he delivered at Russell’s funeral in 2011.
“The memories are still that vivid it feels like yesterday,” Ferguson told Global News.
“There’s certain days as you move through your career, and I’ve had a long one over 40 years that you’re just not going to forget and this was one of them.”
Ferguson, who also worked with Russell’s father, Glenn, now a retired Toronto police officer, remembered Ryan as well-respected.
“Young fellows and the older ones on his platoon just gravitated towards him. He had that infectious personality,” he said.
Christine said she was surprised to learn that 52 division officers had held a small ceremony in her late husband’s honour.
“That’s amazing. I didn’t know that was happening and I’m so appreciative especially for the men and women, police officers that have experienced this great loss and were there for us, and were there for each other,” she said.
“I know it’s been a painful memory for all of us. I know Ryan was a really special police officer, but he was also a really special friend to them too and I appreciate everyone still remembering and honouring him.”