After more than nine hours of deliberation Tuesday a jury found former RCMP officer Kevin Gregson guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Ottawa police officer Eric Czapnik.
He is sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Czapnik’s widow, Anna Korutowska, told the court in a victim impact statement Tuesday night that she wanted all of her husband’s 51 years to be known, not only the last minutes and hours of his life spoken about in the trial.
“There is only one statement I agree on with my husband’s killer. Eric was a good man,” she said, referring to Gregson’s repeated use of that phrase to describe Czapnik.
Czapnik grew up in communist Poland and fled to Greece at age 30, then moved his family to Ottawa two years later, she said. He worked hard, struggled through a divorce, took charge of his life remarried and joined the police force.
Their son Anthony is five-and-a-half years old but already knows about death, she said.
Two weeks after the murder, he was playing in the bathtub and asked her, “Mommy, why did the police put daddy in a big brown box?” she said.
Now he has a vocabulary no child should have, she said. “He knows what is a coffin, hearse, that people go to heaven when they die. He associates pipe bands with daddy’s funeral.”
“Eric was taken away from us. His life was ended way too early by a senseless act of violence,” Korutowska said. “Whatever was the intention, it ended in tragedy for our family. However, I vow in front of you, we will persevere, we will survive and together we will raise little Anthony to become a good man, just like his daddy.”
Czapnik’s older son, Arthur, read a victim impact statement on behalf of himself and his brother Lucasz and sister Kasia.
“I remain fatherless and so to my siblings,” he said. “The only thing we can hang on is the fact that his blood runs through our veins.”
Arthur is training to be a police officer.
“Gregson, because of people like you I need to be a police officer, to help our community put away people like you,” he said, staring at Gregson, who sat in the prisoners box without looking up.
Police colleague Const. Chris Getz recalled training Czapnik, who he described as “a rare man” who worked hard and was impossible not to like.
“The way his full body shook when he laughed to this day puts a smile on my face,” he said.
He said Ottawa police officers are filled with sorrow over his death when reminded it every Monday night shift and police spouses suffer greater anxiety now, worrying their loved ones won’t come home.
Paramedic Virginia Warner read a statement on behalf of the four Ottawa paramedics who witnessed the murder and restrained Gregson.
“Gregson’s actions left us with no choice but to disarm and restrain him, instead of being able to help Eric further, leaving some of us with a terrible feeling of guilt,” she said. “As paramedics we are trained to help people, having to watch and feel a man die in our own hands has left a terrible impact.”
All four have suffered post-traumatic stress symptoms, nightmares and stress on their relationships and careers and one is unable to work as a paramedic again, she said.
By the time the jury began to deliberate, there was no doubt that Gregson had stabbed Czapnik in the ambulance bay of the Ottawa Hospital on Dec. 29, 2009. Gregson and his lawyers conceded that fact but asked the jury to decide whether or not he possessed the intent necessary for first-degree murder or, if not, to convict him of manslaughter.
Gregson was the only defence witness and told the jury he only meant to steal a gun to kill himself and believed he could outwit and overpower an officer to get one.
Gregson said stabbing Czapnik was a reflex to the Ottawa police officer punching him in the face during a struggle that ensued after Gregson, brandishing a replica gun, ordered Czapnik out of his car and to his knees.
The Crown argued Gregson intended to kill a cop to create a “spectacle” that would embarrass his former bosses at the RCMP.
Both sides agreed Gregson was on a downward spiral. The RCMP had suspended him without pay and hours before the lethal attack Gregson’s one of his ex-wives had accused him of raping a young girl.
The ex-wife, who cannot be named under a publication ban, testified when she confronted him about an allegation that he raped a 10-year-old girl, he denied it, but said his career with the RCMP would be finished.
He is scheduled to stand trial on charges of sexual assault, sexual interference and possession of child pornography in September. Asked after the verdict if the Crown will try Gregson in the rape, prosecutor Brian Holowka said the Crown will be considering that issue in the days and weeks to come.