Slain Toronto police officer fondly remembered as a ‘gentle giant’

A Toronto police officer fatally shot inside a Mississauga coffee shop Monday afternoon is being remembered as a “gentle giant,” a “larger than life” person whose presence was felt before he even entered a room.

Const. Andrew Hong, a 22-year veteran of the Toronto police force, was 48.

He leaves behind a wife, two teenage children and his parents.

Hong was one of two people gunned down in a GTA shooting spree yesterday afternoon involving the same suspect.

Another person, whose identity has yet to be confirmed, died after being shot at a Milton auto repair shop. Three others were also badly hurt after being shot in the two incidents.

The not-yet-named shooter, who was called “armed and dangerous” in a police-issued emergency active shooter alert, died following an interaction with Halton police at a Hamilton cemetery late Monday afternoon.

Hong, who was a member of Toronto police’s Traffic Services Unit – Traffic Motor Squad, was in Mississauga Monday for a joint training exercise with members of Toronto and York regional police forces. He’d reportedly stopped at a Tim Horton’s for lunch around 2:15 p.m. where he was fatally shot at close range in what Peel police Chief Nishan Duraiappah described as an “ambush attack.” Hong died at the scene.

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg met Hong professionally on the job and called him a “very close” friend.

“Andrew was larger than life. Physically he was larger than life and his personality was in the room before he was. … We had a lot of laughs,” he told CP24 Monday night shortly after a gathering with hundreds of colleagues to pay respects to Hong before his body was taken to the Forensic Services and Coroner’s Complex at Keele and Wilson streets in North York.

Pegg, who said he’d visited with Hong just recently, said he was a police officer whose dedication to the job was “unwavering.” He called him “brave beyond description.”

“To see something like this happen in our city to people I love and care about, there are no words for that,” said Pegg, who called the killing “an unspeakable thing.”

“Our hearts are broken.”

Interim Toronto Police Chief James Ramer officially announced Hong’s death Monday evening in Mississauga.

“It is with a profound sadness that I announced the death of Toronto Police Service constable Andrew Hong, of Traffic Services,” he said during a press conference.

Calling Hong a “husband, father, and son,” Ramer said he’s committed to the slain officer’s family that they will have the “full support of the Toronto Police Service every day going forward.”

“This is devastating news for his family and for all members of the Toronto Police Service and our entire policing community. We will lean on each other while we work to support Constable Hong’s family and each other in our grief,” he said.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said Hong death is “profoundly sad,” adding it was evident he was a “beloved” colleague, which he said witnessed first hand Monday evening as many officers from Traffic Services had “tears streaming down (their) faces.”

“(Hong) was somebody that meant a lot to them” Tory said, adding police officers, while not perfect, “get up every morning and they put on a uniform, and they go out into potentially in harm’s way.”

“This is one of those kinds of things that just breaks your heart,” he said.

Tory had met Hong personally during the pandemic when he did some security work and called him a “gentle giant of a man.”

“Everybody who met him liked him,” he said.

The Mayor is expected to visit Toronto police’s Traffic Services Unit, at 9 Hanna Ave. in Liberty Village, today to meet with Hong’s grieving colleagues.

Last night, hundreds of officers gathered outside the Mississauga plaza near Argentia Road and Winston Churchill Boulevard where Hong was shot and killed Monday afternoon for a Traffic Services-led procession that accompanied his body to the Coroner’s Office. A large contingent of police also gathered at that location.

Funeral arrangements for Hong are still in the works at this time.

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