Playing hide-and-seek in her grandparents' house together. That is how Crossfield resident Charlotte Blackwell remembers her second cousin Brett Ryan.
When one of Blackwell's cousins had phoned her mother yesterday to deliver the agonizing news that Edmonton police officer Const. Ryan had been killed in the line of duty on Thursday morning, disbelief reverberated through Blackwell. Then came the shock.
"You never think stuff like this will happen within your family unit. I am completely devastated for my cousin and their immediate family. This is my cousin's youngest son and I just I can't imagine what she's going through, and what his wife is going through," she said. "It's heart-wrenching. I'm heartbroken for them all."
Then another of Blackwell's family members called. Blackwell, who owns The Donut Man in Crossfield, decided to do something for both the fallen officers' families in the wake of the killings.
"My cousins had asked me if we could do a memorial ribbon donut in their memory. Of course, I said yes," she said. "We decided that we would donate all the proceeds and our time to the memorial GoFundMe."
The GoFundMe campaign which was set up within hours of Thursday's news that the two police officers were killed has raised over $150 thousand to date. According to the page, The Edmonton Police Foundation, in partnership with the Edmonton Police Association, is raising funds for the families of fallen members.
"All funds raised here will go to the Edmonton Police Foundation, which in turn will provide the funds to the families to assist with the costs of upcoming expenses," the campaign stated.
While Blackwell said that the outpouring of support has not been surprising, there is an element of the surreal.
"We saw it [the support] when it happened with Sgt. Harnett, but it's kind of a shock when it's your own family. You see all the posts; you see the Prime Minister, the Premier, the mayors, all sending their condolences," she said. "You see the flags at half-mast."
Blackwell's cousin, Laurie Ryan, mother to Const. Ryan shared the heart-wrenching news on her social media.
"That post about losing her son has been shared over 6000 times. There are over 1,200 comments on it. It feels surreal. I keep thinking, 'Oh my gosh, this is our family.'"
Though Blackwell and Ryan would drift apart as they grew older, what with everyone starting their own families and moving to start lives of their own, she knew that he had become a paramedic. It wasn't until some time later that she learned that he moved on to the police service. 30-year-old Ryan had been with Edmonton's Police Service for five and half years.
"I think that any death; any unnecessary death is tragic, but it does [hit differently] because they're [police/first responders] are out there to protect us. These two men were going to help with a domestic disturbance and they were there to help these people through a time of crisis," she said. "And they died and they didn't need to. They were there to help and they couldn't."
With the grief though there has also come anger, anger at the seemingly senseless tragedy.
"This young man took these men's lives and it didn't need to happen. Then, he took his own life and it was all for nothing."
Blackwell said her family has many first responders in it and it is something she has always treasured and respected.
"[If there's one thing I could say] it's always thank you. We appreciate them so much, and everything that they do for us. We can't thank them enough for what they do and [for] putting their lives on the line," she said. "But it's not just them, but their families as well; sending them out the door every night and every day, and not knowing if they'll come back."
Blackwell said that since she made the announcement about the memorial donut, she has been inundated with calls.
"We've been having people come in and get dozens of them at a time and we have orders for them well into next week."
On Friday, the Edmonton Police Service released further details with regard to the police officers' deaths.
At approximately 12:47 a.m. on Thursday, March 16, Const. Travis Jordan and Const. Brett Ryan responded to a family dispute call in an apartment complex near 114 Avenue and 132 Street in Edmonton.
According to police, when the two officers arrived, they were met by a 55-year-old female complainant outside of the complex.
"The two officers then responded to the suite where she resided, along with her 73-year-old male partner and their 16-year-old son. Immediately upon arriving at the suite, both constables were shot multiple times by the 16-year-old male and were immediately incapacitated," a police statement read.
A struggle reportedly ensued between the mother and son over the firearm, and the suspect shot his mother before turning the firearm on himself, taking his own life. The father was not physically injured during the shootings.
It has since been confirmed that neither officer discharged their firearm. Following 9-1-1 calls by multiple reporters, additional police and EMS arrived.
"One of the injured officers was transported in a police vehicle to the hospital, while the other injured officer was taken by ambulance. The female complainant was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where she remains in serious but stable condition."
Soon after arriving at the hospital, both officers were declared deceased.
As the 16-year-old suspect died in the presence of police, the Director of Law Enforcement was notified and directed that the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) provide oversight to the investigation being conducted by the EPS Homicide Section.
Autopsies for both officers will be conducted this weekend. The autopsy for the youth suspect is scheduled for next week.
Information on the public portion of the funeral arrangements for the fallen officers will be released as soon as it becomes available.
Six other police officers have died across Canada in the past six months, with five being killed in Ontario and one in British Columbia.
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