Thousands gathered Friday, March 12 in Wingham, Ontario to mourn the death of Vu Pham, an Ontario Provincial Police constable who was shot while on duty by a suspect in a pickup truck he pulled over.
A 15-year police veteran, he is survived by his wife Heather and their three sons.
Pham’s body was brought in a wood casket draped with the Ontario flag at 1 p.m. into the Huron Wescast Community Complex, the same arena he took his sons Joshua, Tyler and Jordan to play hockey.
The boys read letters to their father and reminisced about Pham cheering them on at their hockey games and goofing around with them.
“I miss you daddy,” said Joshua, 7. “I wish you were here with us today.”
They also reminded attendees of a father who taught them to play hockey and soccer and took them hunting.
“Dear dad, you are the best dad ever,” said Jordan, 10.
There was a torrent of support from other police forces and citizens of Wingham at Pham’s funeral.
About 3,000 people stood outside the complex in a light rain during the two hour service to support Pham’s families because it could not hold more than 5,000.
Pham was born in a war-torn Vietnam in 1972. His father, Quang Pham, a South Vietnamese officer, also gave his life for his country.
Pham was then separated from his mother, Men Nguyen, after she was imprisoned for attempting to flee the country.
As a young boy, Pham left the country with an uncle and waited for an immigration assignment at a refugee camp, not unlike many other “boat people” of the time.
Though he was later reunited with his birth mother and siblings, Pham came to Canada and was adopted by Dan and Terry Thompson, a Pentecostal pastor and his wife.
“He was just a skinny boy, seven years of age when he left his home,” Dan Thompson recalled.
“I was so moved by the story: He left his family and a loving mother and came halfway across the world to this faraway place.”
Heather Pham eulogized her husband and spoke of the “visions and nightmares” she had about the day she would have to speak at her husband’s funeral.
She also forgave the man that killed her husband.
“As hard as it is, forgiveness is the only way to release us from pain and anger,” she said. “I know it was what Vu would have wanted.”
Fred Preston, the accused shooter, later died in a London, Ontario hospital of gunshot wounds from Pham’s partner, OPP constable Dell Mercey.
“I didn’t die that day because Vu Pham saved my life,” Mercey said.
Preston was a 70-year-old former politician who had “threatened to do something radical,” according to his brother Alex Preston.
He had been arguing with his estranged wife and police sources said that Preston was threatening to shoot other people as well. His daughter called the police, which led to the incident.
Investigations into the shooting are being carried out by the OPP and the Special Investigations Unit.
Eight pallbearers removed Pham’s casket from the service accompanied by the sound of bagpipes.
Following the service, thousands of officers in dress uniforms from across Ontario and the United States marched ceremonially through the streets of Wingham, a town of about 3,000 just north of London, Ontario, and lined the sides of the road to salute as the funeral procession.