The flags at the Balmoral Street police station were lowered to half mast Tuesday in honour of Const. John Kusznier, who died in the line of duty on Jan. 15, 1978.
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THUNDER BAY -- Mayor Keith Hobbs was a rookie police officer when Const. John Kusznier was shot in the line of duty on Jan. 15, 1978.
“I remember as a two-year rookie on the job, he treated recruits like gold,” said Hobbs after the flags at the Balmoral Street police station were lowered to half mast to mark the 35th anniversary of Kusznier’s death Tuesday morning.
“It was a tough job to break into. It was a very male-dominated area and you had to be big and tough and strong. I was about 160 pounds soaking wet. He’d take you under his wing and make you feel like a hero."
Kusznier died while responding to a disturbance in the Landmark Inn parking lot 35 years ago. He encountered two men armed with handguns and was fatally shot in an exchange of gunfire.
One of the gunmen also died in the incident.
The other accused was acquitted of the charges.
Kusznier is the only Thunder Bay police officer to have died in the line of duty. He left behind a wife and three sons.
Hobbs' shift that day ended as Kusznier’s began, and he said his death had a huge impact on morale.
“I remember for weeks and weeks officers between calls were just sitting on the side of the road. A lot of families were devastated and we never felt we got justice,” said Hobbs.
“The whole thing just left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth.”
Marie McClelland was a good friend of Kusznier’s and said he was a wonderful cop and family man.
“Johnny thought the world of his family and I can truly say he was one of the best citizens that I’ve ever met in Thunder Bay,” she said.
McClelland made sure to attend Tuesday’s ceremony to honour Kusznier’s memory as a community-minded man.
She described him as kind to everybody and good with children.
“I wish more people in Thunder Bay would stop and take a minute to remember his family and how he was good to the citizens here,” she said.
Police chief J.P. Levesque said the police service feels it’s important to commemorate the anniversary of Kusznier’s death to not only honour his memory, but to let his family know they still think about him.
“I’ve gotten to know the Kusznier family over the years; they’re a remarkable bunch. The boys have certainly done well,” he said.
The chief also said this incident should serve as a reminder to every officer working today how dangerous the job can be.
“You have to be careful every time you put on the uniform,” he said.
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