Toronto police officer killed in line of duty remembered by close friend as 'gentle giant'

A close friend of Const. Jeffrey Northrup, who was killed in the line of duty one week ago, is remembering the 31-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service as a "gentle giant," who cared for his family and community.

Jason Coulthard, 48, is a Toronto police officer who understands trauma and dynamic situations first-hand. He’s spent the last four years recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Coulthard met Northrup more than a decade ago. In that time, he said they worked on projects together and became close friends in the process.

He said Northrup is known to many as the "gentle giant," partly because he was very tall.

“He was just full of love, everywhere he went, he had a smile on his face. He brought light into the room. In fact, in the last four years of my recovery, he’s one of the only officers, maybe a handful of officers, who reached out to me on a regular basis to say ‘how are you?’” an emotional Coulthard told CTV News Toronto. “So it’s tough.”

On the beat for close to 24 years, Clouthard has investigated cases from Jane Creba to international organized crime and he was on the ground during the 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto. His last stint was spending three years as a homicide detective.

He said receiving the phone call last Friday that Northrup had been killed was heartbreaking.

“It took me a while to process the entire thing, obviously not knowing the intricacies of what actually happened is difficult as well.”

Northrup died after being struck by a vehicle in downtown Toronto last week in an incident police have described as a “deliberate and intentional.”

Umar Zameer, 31, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the incident.

Northrup's funeral will be held at BMO Field at Exhibition Place on Monday.

The general public is welcome to attend a visitation for Northrup, held Sunday at Kane-Jarrett Funeral Home in Thornhill. Police say the public can observe the procession from the funeral home to Exhibition Place.

“I would like to go. It’s going to take a lot of courage for me to go,” said Coulthard.

He said that because his injury is multi-layered, it’s a confusing situation to attend and hasn’t fully decided yet, but said he does love that many people will be there.

Through his healing, Coulthard started a non-profit run by, and for, first responders and their families.

The New Hope Field of Dreams is being built in the Kawarthas, about a 140-minute drive north-east of Toronto.

Not lost on Coulthard is the difficulty officers working alongside Northrup may also be experiencing.

“There would be so many things going through their mind. Could’ve, should’ve, Would’ve … Those are really tough thoughts to have,” he said.

“I know he was a family man. He cared greatly for his children. Even just the pictures you see online of his kids. His family was number one to him. His second family was us, police family and the third family, probably just as equal, was the community.”

Coulthard said he’ll miss Northrup checking up on him, and just as Northrup helped him, he hopes to make a difference to others on the front lines. 

Northrup is survived by his wife, three children and his mother. He was 55.