Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Thousands Pay Tribute to Andrew Hong

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On his first assignment at 42 Division after graduating from Toronto Police College in 2000, Constable Andrew Hong – affectionately known as Honger — expressed a strong desire to go to Traffic Services.

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He got his wish two years later and was a member of the Motor Squad for 14 years until his tragic death in the line of duty on September 12 in Mississauga.

On lunchbreak at a nearby Tim Hortons on Argentia Road near Sir Winston Churchill Boulevard while conducting Level 2 training for York and Peel Regional Police officers, Hong was fatally gunned down. It was the start of a series of shootings in Peel and Halton regions that left two other people dead and two injured.

He was 48.

Thousands of police officers and other first responders from across Canada and the United States attended his funeral on September 21 at Toronto Congress Centre.

Police officers marching down a street
A column of Toronto police officers marches toward the Toronto Congress CentrePhoto: Douglas Elo

Chief James Ramer said the large turnout and outpouring of grief from law enforcement and community members speak to the high esteem in which police officers are held.

“As police officers, we have all taken this same oath to answer the call, to put the safety of others before our own,” he said. “The circumstances of Andrew’s death illustrate that do so, in our profession, can come at a terrible cost. And indeed today, we also pay tribute to the other innocent victims of this senseless tragedy. We pay tribute to the ambulance, fire and police personnel who rushed to the scene and tried in vain to save him. The motor officers who refused to leave his side. So too do we honour the brave officers who ran into great danger to bring it to an end. Now, the perseverance of investigators to find the truth.”

Ramer said the attack on Hong was an attack on the entire community.

“Although we cannot share in the depth of sorrow and sadness that Andrew’s loved ones feel, we can all share in the work to uphold his legacy,” added the Chief, who presented the fallen officer’s forge cap to his family. “So on those days, in those moments when it is most challenging to answer that call, we must lean on each other, we must turn to the example of a man who took nothing for granted. A mentor who shared his generosity and kindness far and wide. An officer who each and every day, brought energy and joy to his work. A humble man who affirmed that policing is more than just a profession. It is a calling to make a difference in extraordinary ways and to live heroically.”

Hong is survived by his wife Jenny, their children Mia and Alex, his parents and two sisters.

“He was a big man with a big personality,” said his widow. “He was larger than life. He was fun-loving, charismatic, a good father and a good husband. He was a dedicated worker and protector and he truly was a hero. To my kids, their dad will always be their hero. Andrew gave me and my kids so much beautiful memories over the years. We miss him every day and our home will always feel empty without him.”

The couple would have celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary on September 22, the day after his funeral.

“This year is the first year we are not celebrating together,” Jenny Hong said. “So Andrew, if you are listening, please know that you will always and forever be the greatest love of my life. Happy anniversary.”

Three people stand in front of a casket draped in a Canada flag
Mia, Alex and Jenny Hong bow to Andrew’s casket after paying tribute to himPhoto: Kevin Masterman

Mia Hong, who made an emotional goodbye to her father in a social media post in the aftermath of his death, thanked everyone who supported the family during this challenging period, including the Motor Unit ‘for giving him a reason to come to work every day’.

“You guys are his family and you are the ones he came to work every day to see,” said the 17-year-old. “I know you are grieving with us. I am so sorry you have lost him, a friend and a brother.”

She said her father had many passions, including animals, cooking and video games.

“Him and I shared a love for cats,” she said. “We have an endless supply of memes, videos and pictures across every messaging platform we have downloaded on our phones… My father is a symbol of everything I want to be. He married someone as amazing as my mom, had two over-achieving children and a career he truly loved. In his early years, he did a lot of lifting and hitting the gym. But as he got older, his love for his muscles and cars turned into his love for his wife and kids. He went from a stick shift Volkswagen Golf GTI to an eight-seater minivan.”

Toronto Police Services Board Chair Jim Hart said Hong’s death is a profound loss for the city, his family and everyone who knew him.

“The Toronto Police Service is very much a family and when we lose a member, especially in such a disturbing way, the reverberations of sadness, anger and grief echo deeply throughout the organization,” he said. “To the family along with his countless cherished colleagues and friends, the hearts of Torontonians break alongside yours as we join you in mourning this exceptional police officer and wonderful man and honouring his incredible dedication along with his supreme sacrifice,” he said. An officer who gives their life in the line of duty, as Constable Hong has done, has undoubtedly made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Ask anyone who knew him and they would tell you he was a gentle giant and a big presence with an even bigger smile on his face. By all accounts, he was an exceedingly kind and positive person, gentle and caring, funny and warm. He loved his family and his job with extraordinary commitment and great professionalism.”

Hart assured uniformed members who risk their lives daily while performing their duty to serve and protect that the city and the Service are grateful to them.

“Know that your incredible dedication to duty is valued by the members of our communities,” he noted. “We do not take the significant risks you take daily on our behalf lightly. We thank you for your service, for your courage and for your commitment.”

Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford thanked the fallen officer for his service to the province.

“His dedication to his job was unwavering and he was brave beyond description,” he said. “To do these jobs, to commit your life protecting others is the highest calling. So much is asked of those officers and their families. The sacrifices these families make are more than most of us could ever know and sometimes these heroes make the ultimate sacrifice as Andrew did.”

Long line of marching officers
Thousands of TPS officers marched to the Toronto Congress Centre to pay tributePhoto: Greg Henkenhaf

 

Mayor John Tory, who is also a TPSB member, met Hong a few times.

“His warmth and his presence told me who he was, a good person and a good cop,” he said. “Very few of us are there when our police officers put on their uniforms and leave their homes to go to work each day, nor are we there when they answer the calls that they do. As a result, it is very difficult for us to understand the very special type of courage, dedication and sacrifice that is involved in police work for those who do it and their families. It is a commitment larger than any one person and indeed larger than the police service itself and the sacrifice can similarly be beyond comprehension as is the case with Andrew Hong and his family and the senseless and unexplainable tragedy that has befallen him.”

In his tribute, Ontario’s Solicitor General Michael Kerzner said Hong’s sacrifice will never be forgotten.

“We will remember the ideals for which Andrew gave his life,” he said. “We have a duty beyond memory, we have a duty beyond honouring, we have a duty to live our lives and go forward. This tragedy reminds us to cherish every moment and every moment must count.”

Toronto Police Association President Jon Reid thanked Hong’s family for sharing the beloved officer with TPS.

“We will never forget him and we will continue to support you in any way he can,” he told them.

It takes the devastating loss of officer, said Reid, to remind everyone of what it takes to be a police officer and the danger the job entails.

“There are few other jobs that require this level of commitment and few other jobs where that risk is a daily reality,” he pointed out. “We know the silent majority support us. We have seen it this week. The quiet waves to our members and the outpouring of support. I want people to know that nothing means more to us that your support. We thank you for your support, so please do not stop after today. If you see an officer, say hello. Thank him or her for their service and engage them in conversation. It is what keeps us going and fuels our daily commitment to your safety and that of the communities we serve. Please don’t wait for another tragic loss to express your support for policing.”

Acting Superintendent Matt Moyer said Hong was an extraordinary man who dedicated his life and career to public safety and community.

“He was a man whose graciousness and infectious sense of humor brightened the lives of everyone fortunate enough to know him and a man whose conviction, exceptional talent and enormous heart made a real difference,” he noted. “That was our friend Andrew Hong”

Moyer and Hong crossed paths for the first time 12 years ago during the G-20 Summit in Toronto.

“He was on a bike and I got to know him,” recalled the Traffic Services Unit Commander. “He was just very funny and a bull in a china shop. He had a great sense of humor that is something, I think, we have in common. When I went to Traffic Services, he took full advantage of that. He wanted to laugh and poke fun at me all the time. He tried coaxing me to ride with the Motor Squad and I made it very clear, flattered as I was, never.”

A few weeks ago outside the Rogers Centre, Hong pulled Moyer aside and asked if he could order a new set of BMW motorcycles for the squad.

“He put his big arms around me and said, ‘Boss, you can do it, you can make it happen,” Moyer recalled. “I told him if he put the paperwork on my desk, I will sign anything for you pal. Two days later, a yellow post-it note was on my desk with the words, ‘Need BMWs, sign here’. As soon as I picked up the post-it, I knew it was the work of Andrew.”

The honourary pallbearers were Detective Nader Khoshbooi of Traffic Services and Captain Do Kim of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

They were close friends of Hong.

Constables Dawood (Sheikh) Khurshid and Bryce Levert of the Motor Squad were the hat and medal bearer respectively.

“Honger was a part of a Police Motorcycle legacy that has been in Toronto since 1908,” said Khurshid. “When you fire you that steel horse known as a motorcycle, she rumbles. When Honger rode his motorcycle, you heard him before you saw him and before you saw him, he was gone. His nickname is a true depiction of his riding style because he was the rumbler of his motorcycle. He was so powerful that even the motorcycle was scared of him. His positive and exuberance energy exceeded the infectious personality of his motor.”

Khurshid said Hong was a mentor, partner and friend.

“He was the one that could always pick up my spirit when I was feeling down,” he added. “He was a person that always inflicted a really good laugh. I will never be able to look at Mexican donuts and not think about my friend Andrew, a skilled, accomplished and a professional who never stopped having fun. He was the one that always expressed gratitude and had the most amazing wit. He was a big brother who gave us confidence and confirmation in our abilities and actions. He was the complete package – a great copper, a great rider, a great teacher, a great friend, a great family man and a big teddy bear.”

Motorcycles ride alongside a hearse
Toronto Motor Squad officers escorted Andrew HongPhoto: Tyron D’Souza

Nearly 300 motorcycle officers from about 25 Canadian and American police services took part in the procession. The Waterloo Warbirds, a volunteer organization that maintains a fleet of classic aircraft, flew a missing man formation over officers before the funeral.

Two men beside a plane with a TPS crest
Members of the Waterloo Warbirds flew in tribute to Constable Hong with his badge number emblazoned on their planes

Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell attended the funeral.

Hong is the 43rd TPS officer to have died in the line of duty and the first since Detective Constable Jeffrey Northrup was killed on July 2, 2021 while he and his partner were responding to a 9-1-1 call for a robbery in progress when a vehicle struck them in Toronto City Hall’s underground parking garage. He succumbed to his injuries.

Constable William Boyd was the first Toronto officer to die in the line of duty in 1901. While transporting prisoners, he was fatally shot by an escapee.

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