PC Hovingh fatally shot while responding to property dispute near Gore Bay’s East Bluff

GORE BAY—People across Manitoulin Island have responded with shock and disbelief after last Thursday’s double-fatal shooting incident near the Town of Gore Bay, in a part of the province known for its quiet and deeply connected communities.

Around 11 am on Thursday, November 19, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers responded to a property dispute east of Gore Bay.

On any other day, this might have been another “nothing call” as a retired officer described it—a mundane, everyday call for service that normally ends without incident. However, said the retired officer, basic calls such as traffic stops often carry the greatest risk for officers.

Police reports state that two OPP officers went to an address on Hindman Trail in Gore Bay after a property owner reported the presence of an “unwanted man.”

Shortly after they arrived, the officers located the individual who was inside a trailer. Investigators later revealed that the man on the property was 60-year-old Gary Brohman of Gore Bay.

Around 11 am on Thursday, shots were exchanged between Mr. Brohman and 52-year-old Provincial Constable (PC) Marc Hovingh.

Dozens of police officers and other first responders raced toward the Island from Sudbury and Algoma, including members of Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service and UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry conservation officers and paramedics. Ornge air ambulance also responded for emergency medical transport.

Crews transported both men to hospital where they both died of their injuries.

PC Hovingh had spent 28 years with the OPP and was a year and a half from retirement when he died in the line of duty last Thursday.

On Saturday morning, post-mortem examinations took place in Toronto for each of the men.

Initial reports and statements from government leaders suggested that a second officer was injured but investigators later clarified that only one officer sustained injuries.

Later in the day on November 19, Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) invoked its mandate to investigate the incident. The SIU is a civilian agency that conducts investigations when police actions have caused death, serious injury or an allegation of sexual assault.

Three investigators and two forensic investigators travelled to the scene that day.

The SIU said anyone with information on the investigation should contact the lead investigator at 1-800-787-8529, as well as anyone who may have video evidence related to the incident.

Greater Sudbury Police Service is investigating the death of PC Hovingh.

Officer deaths in the Manitoulin detachment are all but unheard of. In 1972, Constable Clare Lloyd Lackey was returning from a call when he was struck head-on by an impaired driver on Highway 540.

The bridge over Graham Creek in Honora Bay is named in his honour. Island historians believe PC Hovingh is the second officer who has died while on-duty in this detachment.

Last Thursday’s incident took place just east of the Town of Gore Bay. Mayor Dan Osborne stated, “the tragic events that have taken place so close to our community have affected us all here and across the Island. I cannot imagine the pain the family of Constable Hovingh must be feeling. We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”

“It’s going to be hard for everyone,” said Mayor Osborne. “Marc was a big part of the community; he was involved in many different things.”

Bob Third and Mary-Lea Buchan live just down Scotland Road, near the scene of this incident. They said they stayed at their camp once they heard the sirens and helicopters.

Neighbour Wade Cook of Noble Boulevard said it was disturbing that such an incident could happen so close to home. He had seen the Hovinghs at church on a couple of prior occasions.

His children attend elementary school at Charles C. McLean Public School in Gore Bay and he said the school had gone into lockdown as the incident unfolded.

Sue Priddle of Gore Bay was driving in the opposite direction from the incident and recounted seeing several police vehicles racing toward the West End.

“It is horrifying,” said Ms. Priddle. “Two deaths have taken place and countless lives have been affected. Our community is so small.”

PC Hovingh’s death drew thousands of condolences and messages of support for the family, the Island community and policing officials within hours of the OPP commissioner’s announcement later that afternoon.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford stated that he was deeply saddened by the news. He extended his support for government house leader Paul Calandra’s request to lower flags to half-staff at the legislature. “My thoughts are with all the brave men and women on the front lines who put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe.”

Every party leader in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario offered similar statements and Conservative Party of Canada leader Erin O’Toole also joined the chorus.

Numerous municipalities, First Nations, businesses and private citizens across Ontario also lowered their flags. The United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising lowered each of its member flags at its M’Chigeeng headquarters.

Thousands of people expressed their condolences online including police chiefs, officer unions, sports teams, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell and federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.

Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha shared his condolences for PC Hovingh’s family, friends, Islanders and the entire Ontario policing community.

“On Manitoulin Island, OPP officers are our friends and our neighbours. On duty and off, they play an active role in Manitoulin life. We will be forever changed by the devastating loss of one of our own. Manitoulin is also strong, and I have faith that we will come together to grieve and to heal, to support Constable Hovingh’s loved ones and to remember a hero gone too soon,” Mr. Mantha said in an emailed statement.

Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes shared a similar statement of condolence and requested a moment of silence in the legislature when she raised the topic.

“On behalf of the people of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing who are filled with grief at this tragic loss and grateful to all those who put their lives on the line for us every day, I wish his family, loved ones, and those he has touched much strength through these difficult times,” she stated.

The Expositor will continue to report on new developments in the case as they become available in the coming weeks and months.

The Island collectively held its breath this past Sunday, November 22 when another police situation brought scores of officers to the Elizabeth Bay area in Western Manitoulin. Fortunately, that call for service ended without any major incidents.

In late August, a 43-year-old Gore Bay man was arrested and charged with numerous offences including attempt to commit murder with a firearm after he allegedly fired shots at an OPP officer who was responding to a call, also in Gore Bay.