The suspended Mountie charged with stabbing an Ottawa police officer to death has been placed in protective custody and under suicide watch.
Kevin Gregson, 43, appeared in an Ottawa courtroom early Wednesday, charged with the first-degree murder of 51-year-old Const. Eric Czapnik.
Gregson wore a blue jumpsuit and kept his eyes downcast throughout his short hearing at provincial court. His parents, leaning together, watched wordlessly from the other side of the court, his father occasionally teary-eyed.
“His parents are understandably quite upset, and they are asking to please honour their privacy,” Gregson’s lawyer, Israel Gencher, said after the hearing.
“They’re elderly. This has rocked their world, and they’re really not in a position to give a statement at this time.”
Gregson also faces charges of theft of a car and using an imitation firearm in the commission of an offence. He is alleged to have stolen a car before the attack, and driving it to the scene.
Czapnik was ambushed early Tuesday while sitting in his cruiser taking notes on an unrelated case. He had been parked outside a hospital in the cold and dark.
Four paramedics rushed out of the hospital and arrived while the attack was in progress. They were able to apprehend a suspect, but could not save Czapnik’s life.
He died soon after, leaving behind four children. He had been a constable for just three years, embarking on a second career at age 48.
Czapnik was known among his colleagues as jovial and happy-go-lucky. He moved to Canada from Poland in 1990, and was active in the Polish community in Ottawa.
Police said he had no known connection to the suspect.
At the court hearing Wednesday, the Crown requested that Gregson be banned from contacting five potential witnesses who still need to be questioned, mostly family members, including some children.
Gencher, Gregson’s lawyer, said police questioned his client for hours on Tuesday night, but he has yet to see the reports from the interrogation.
“We’re still waiting for disclosure. We’re going to explore our options,” he said.
Gencher said he is considering asking for a psychiatric assessment for Gregson.
Gencher said the accused man is still considered a member of the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police, although his status is the subject of a labour dispute that is in litigation.
The RCMP has also clarified that Gregson is still a Mountie, although he has been ordered to quit his post. “His dismissal has been appealed,” RCMP Commissioner William Elliott said in a statement.
Gregson had been active in the RCMP “F” Division in Saskatchewan in 2006. But a court heard in 2007 that during his off-duty hours, he pulled a knife on a Mormon church official in Regina. The bishop had refused to grant him a special card that allows non-members to enter Mormon temples for certain ceremonies.
“You don’t know how many ways I’ve been taught to kill,” Gregson said, according to a Crown prosecutor.
Several months later Gregson had surgery to remove cysts on his brain. He pleaded guilty in April 2007 to uttering a death threat.
By July 2008, he had been suspended without pay from the RCMP and was ordered to resign from the Force or be dismissed.
His dismissal has been appealed, the RCMP says.
Gregson grew up in Ottawa, and has family here as well as an ex-wife in Saskatchewan, Gencher said.
He added that it’s normal for officers in custody to have extra protection, since past cases have suggested that the safety of current or former officers in jail is at risk.