‘My father is a symbol of everything I want to be:’ Family, colleagues pay final respects to slain Toronto police officer
Published Wednesday, September 21, 2022 1:16AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 21, 2022 6:07PM EDT
Const. Andrew Hong was hailed at his funeral Wednesday as a kind and dedicated public servant who fiercely loved his home and work families and touched all who met him.
Family members, dignitaries and thousands of officers from dozens of police services across the continent took part in the funeral for Hong, the 48-year-old Toronto police officer who was fatally gunned down in an ambush-style attack inside a Mississauga coffee shop last week.
Speaking to the crowd of thousands assembled at the Toronto Congress Centre where the funeral was held, Hong’s widow Jenny said her husband had “two great loves” in his life.
“He had TPS and he had his family,” she said.
She recalled how his eyes lit up when he came home from training new officers on motorcycles and jokingly said that she came to think of TPS as "the other woman.”
“I see you,” she said, addressing the officers who have been there to support her. “I thank you for your sacrifice and your support. I know that you are all grieving for him too.”
She said Hong was “my best friend” and that the funeral comes one day ahead of what would have been the couple’s 21st wedding anniversary.
“Andrew gave me and my kids so many beautiful memories over the years. And although our time has been tragically cut short, I know Andrew would always be our hero and protector from up above.”
Their daughter Mia also spoke and called her father “a symbol of everything I want to be.”
“I would hear stories from my parents’ life before I was born. As many of you could probably see, he was a big guy. In his early years, it was 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 GTI to an eight seater minivan.”
She called her father a “hero” who was always her biggest supporter.
A parade of officers and dignitaries lined up to pay tribute to Hong, who was lauded as a dedicated cop who loved being a member of the motor squad and brought an outsized personality to match his large stature.
“To the Hong family, please know that we'll always be there for you. Lean on us, count on us. Just like we leaned and counted on Honger,” said Hong’s friend and Traffic Services Acting Supt. Matthew Moyer.
A number of friends and colleagues fondly recalled the fallen officer’s big personality, calling him a “big teddy bear” who was always on hand to “inflict” a laugh.
“His nickname is a true depiction of his riding style because he was the rumbler of his motorcycle,” said Const. Dawood Khurshid, another friend from the motor squad. “He was so powerful that even the motorcycle was scared off him.”
Tearing up at one point, Toronto Police Chief James Ramer recalled reading the social media tribute posted by Mia Hong after he “shared the horrific news” with the family.
“I am not alone when I say that I read her words with great difficulty and heartbreak. And most of all, with astonishment, astonishment for her bravery, spirit and love. I know I am not alone when I say that it will carry the words she wrote with me for the rest of my life.”
Ramer said that “although we cannot share in the depths of sorrow and sadness that Andrew's loved ones feel we can all share in the work to uphold his legacy.”
IN PHOTOS: Remembering Const. Andrew Hong
The entire city is grieving along with the Hong family, Mayor John Tory said.
“I told Jenny and Mia and Alex yesterday when I met them and the rest of their family, that I was certain that all 3 million people who live in the city would have come to visit if they could have and I know that they are here in spirit and in support today,” Tory said.
Premier Doug Ford said that “like many officers, we were told that Andrew was made of steel on the outside, but had a heart of gold on the inside.”
The funeral itself got underway around 12:10 p.m. Bagpipes played as Hong’s casket, draped in a Canadian flag, was carried into the hall by eight officers in ceremonial uniform.
The ceremony included a Korean traditional folk song ‘My Beloved One,’ which speaks to having courage in the face of hardship, performed by the Korean Traditional Music Association of Canada, as well as prayers and other songs.
Toronto police said over 8,000 people were in attendance at today's procession, including 3,000 from outside their jurisdiction. They included officers from the OPP and around the GTA, as well as from forces in Quebec, Halifax and the United States.
Dignitaries in attendance included representatives from all levels of government, including Premier Doug Ford, Mayor John Tory, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Minister of Emergency Preparedness and former Toronto police chief Bill Blair and Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino.
Earlier in the day, a hearse carrying Hong's casket left the Kane-Jarret Funeral Home in Thornhill shortly before 9:30 a.m. and thousands of officers lined the route as it made its way to the Toronto Congress Centre. A ceremonial honour guard met the hearse outside when it arrived at around 10:30 a.m. and carried the casket inside.
GUNMAN WAS 'LOOKING FOR A POLICE OFFICER'
Hong, 48, was one of three people fatally shot by a gunman who went on a shooting spree in the GTA on Sept. 12.
He was taking part in a training exercise in Mississauga and was on a lunch break when he was shot at close range in an unprovoked attack at a Tim Hortons. Investigators have said they believe the suspect was “looking for a police officer.”
The gunman then crossed the road to another parking lot where he shot another person and stole their vehicle. He then took off to an auto body shop in Milton where he shot three others. Shakeel Ashraf, 38, was pronounced dead at the scene while the third person who was fatally shot – 28-year-old international student Satwinder Singh – died in hospital several days later.
The gunman was eventually tracked down to a cemetery in Hamilton, where he was fatally shot during an interaction with police.
Friends, colleagues and family have previously remembered Hong, a 22-year veteran of the force, as a “larger than life” character, a loveable practical joker who was affable and well-liked by all who met him.
Hong is survived by his wife, two teenage children and his parents. His family issued a statement following his death, but have asked for privacy while they grieve. The funeral was open to family and their guests as well as members of the Toronto Police Service.
The public was invited to view the procession as Hong’s body was transferred from the funeral home in Thornhill to the Toronto Congress Centre. It was also live-streamed online.
Books of condolence were made available for the public to sign at Traffic Services and Toronto Police Headquarters until Tuesday. Visitation was also held Tuesday at the funeral home in Thornhill.