Detective Sergeant Shawna Coxon spoke briefly with Constable Laura Ellis on the night of February 17, 2002.
The only two women from Toronto in the class at the Ontario Police College, they kept in touch after graduation and became close friends.
Ellis was on the midnight shift on her last assigmment with Toronto Police before transferring to Durham Regional Police Service.
“I told her we would talk the next day,” recalled Coxon.
That conversation never took place.
Early on the morning of February 18, Coxon received a call that Ellis was killed in a traffic collision about an hour before her shift ended.
She and her partner, Constable Ronald Tait, who is with 55 Division, were driving to a break-and-enter call when their scout car struck a motorist making a U-turn at a Scarborough intersection. The police vehicle spun out of control and slammed into a utility pole.
Ellis succumbed to her injuries from the collision scene, leaving family, friends and colleagues to mourn her death.
“I can honestly say I got through police college because of Laura,” said Coxon. “My dad passed away while I was there and she took care of me during that difficult period. Everything I have achieved on the job is because of what she did for me back then. She was really funny and you couldn’t ask for a better friend.”
To mark the 13th anniversary of Ellis’ death, her widower, Tim Ellis, and their daughter, Paige – who was just 13 months old when her mother became the first and only female TPS officer to die in the line of duty – paid a visit to 42 Division.
He was at home readying Paige for the day and waiting for Laura to return home from the overnight shift when then-Chief Julian Fantino showed up at their residence with the grim news.
“Paige asked to do something today and I thought this would be appropriate,” said Ellis. “She knows a lot about Laura the family person, but not a lot about her police side. She has an interest in learning more about her mother and policing.”
Constable Pietro Grande, who now works at neighbouring 43 Division, was in the same graduating class and on the same platoon with Ellis.
“Laura was a fun person to be around and someone who was very down-to-earth and level-headed,” said an emotional Grande, who worked the night shift and delayed going home to be with the Ellis family at 42 Division. “There are certain things you don’t miss and this is one of them.”
Constables Douglas English, who trained Ellis, and Shawn Klodt were with Ellis when the break-and-enter call came in at around 5 a.m. that fateful morning.
“We were having a coffee when the call came in,” English, who is in his 24th year with the Service, pointed out. “We went in different directions and that was the last time I saw her alive. She was a no-nonsense person and someone I liked.”
Constable Luigi Trovato, who is still at 42 Division, has fond memories of Ellis. He was conducting a traffic stop at Morningside Rd. and Highway 401 when he learned about the collision.
“She was a tough cookie who presented herself in a professional manner and was very dedicated to policing,” he said.
Constable Gary Gomez was also on Ellis’ platoon.
“Laura was very fair and firm when dealing with people,” he said. “She was also thirsty for knowledge and always seeking to learn as much as possible.”
Paige, who visited Forensic Identification Services a few months ago and has an interest in pursuing that field, toured 42 Division and listened to officers who worked with her mother recount stories of her time with the Service.
It’s important for us as a police family to do something like this
“It’s important for us as a police family to do something like this,” said 42 Division Inspector David Vickers. “Her loss was very significant for us as a Service, and especially here at this Division. I didn’t work directly with her, but I knew who she was and saw her from time to time.”
Ellis’ memory is remembered and celebrated throughout the Service.
Inside 42 Division’s front entrance hangs a painting – created by former cop-turned-artist Tim Packer – of Ellis in a hammock cradling her daughter. Just below the painting is a photo of the Laura Ellis Natural Area, which was dedicated on September 20, 2008.
On the second floor is a tapestry with the Service’s crest and her badge number that was presented to the Division by community members, a photo of Ellis in uniform and a replica of the street sign bearing Ellis’ name. Just over a decade ago, a street in a Scarborough subdivision was renamed Laura Ellis Court.
Last summer, Police Dog Services Constable John Massey – who was on Ellis’ platoon – named his new canine partner, Ellis, after the fallen officer.