Thousands of police officers from across Canada and the U.S. gave solemn salutes Wednesday to the funeral cortege for a Toronto constable killed in a recent series of shootings, as a procession through the city paid tribute to his career with the force's motorcycle unit.
A service to celebrate the life of Const. Andrew Hong was scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. at the Toronto Congress Centre, where Hong's loved ones, members of the Toronto Police Service, dignitaries and other police and emergency services personnel from many jurisdictions were expected to pay tribute.
Bagpipes played as pallbearers carried Hong's casket, draped in a Canadian flag, into the building after motorcycle officers accompanied the hearse along quiet Toronto streets in the mid-morning procession.
The music faded to a moment of silence after family and pallbearers followed the coffin inside.
"The loss of Andrew has left a void with members of Traffic Services, and the whole TPS family," the force wrote in a statement. "He will be missed immensely, but will live on through memories and stories."
Uniformed officers from several forces, including an estimated 3,000 members from police services outside Toronto, lined the procession route to pay respects to Hong.
Interim Toronto police chief James Ramer was among those who saluted Hong outside the congress centre as the hearse arrived, shortly after four planes from the Waterloo Warbirds group made up of active and retired police officers performed a "missing man" flyover in a tribute to Hong.
Police motorcycles, with representation from units in Halifax and Michigan, had filled the parking lot to greet the officer who spent over a decade of his career with the Toronto force's motorcycle unit, where his employer said "he found his passion" working with colleagues and training officers.
At the funeral, eulogies are expected from Hong's wife Jenny and daughter Mia, along with tributes from Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Toronto Mayor John Tory, interim Toronto police chief James Ramer and Toronto Police Association president Jon Reid.
Hong, 48, was shot dead last week while on break during a training session in Mississauga, Ont., in what police are calling an ambush attack.
Another person was injured in the Mississauga shooting and police say the same suspect then shot three people at an auto body shop in Milton, Ont., killing two and injuring one, before being shot and killed by police in Hamilton.
Hong was a 22-year veteran of the force and a traffic services officer who worked with a highly specialized motorcycle unit that provides security escorts for dignitaries such as prime ministers and presidents.
The father of two began his policing career in 2000, moved to traffic services two years later and later the Motor Squad in 2008, Toronto Police Services said.
Biographical notes from the force described Hong as "extremely passionate about his work" and said he excelled in his role as a motorcycle instructor, where he helped train other officers.
"Andrew loved to laugh with his colleagues," the force wrote. "He always made his presence known and put a smile on everyone’s face."
The funeral service is closed to the public but can be viewed by an online live stream on the Toronto Police Service's YouTube channel or on local television stations.
"TPS extends its gratitude for the support and condolences received from the public since the death of Constable Andrew Hong," the force wrote.