NHH 2017 Homicide Details Now Released

On 27 October 2017, there was a double homicide at the Northumberland Hills Hospital and until now, few details have been released.  This was because Police were involved with a shooting.  As a result the Special Investigator’s Unit (SIU) was called in but they have now completed their investigation and cleared the two policemen involved.  They have also released a graphic detailed account of the event although the police jargon used makes it hard to follow.  If one adds information unearthed by newspaper reporters at the time, and translates the jargon, the story is almost material for a TV show.  Since this incident, Police and Hospital staff have worked together to establish procedures to be used if there is a similar future occurrence.  Hopefully that includes making sure that no-one (other than a Police Officer) brings a gun into the hospital.


Homicide gun
Homicide gun

Based on SIU Report plus other news reports at the time (links at the bottom of this page)
(Wording adjusted to remove Police jargon and make it more readable)

Tom (William) Ryan (70) and his wife Helen Ryan (76) were married in 1971. They lived in summer in Northumberland (to access OHIP benefits) and most recently at the Salem Woods Trailer park east of Colborne.  They usually drove to Texas for the winter.  Tom was overweight and had a leg problem and possibly also a spinal problem.  He boasted that he had as many as 700 firearms although likely mostly in Texas.  Helen possibly had Alzheimer’s plus maybe other ailments. Pete Fisher quoted a relative of Helen, Connie Woodcock, who spoke about their relationship. She said that “Ryan was a controlling husband.  He had threatened Helen many times”.  And “Helen was a dear sweet woman”.

But on the evening of 27 October 2017,  Helen was concerned about Tom’s recent obsession with taking his own life and she was concerned for both his safety and her own.  Tom and Helen had been assigned to a Personal Support Worker (PSW) because of “age-related illnesses and decline” so Helen called the PSW.  When she arrived and saw the situation, she consulted her supervisor by phone and then called 911 for an ambulance to take Tom and Helen to hospital to be assessed.

But prior to leaving for the hospital, Tom indicated that he needed a moment to get ready, went to his room where he was alone for approximately two minutes, and then returned. As he was placed on the stretcher by paramedics, he commented to his wife that “It’s been a great 46 years of knowing you, I love you, but apparently 47 years wasn’t in the cards for us,” and said to the PSW “Well, somebody’s got to cash in the chips eventually.”  Both Tom and his wife were then transported to the Northumberland Hills Hospital.

Tom then expressed his thanks and appreciation to the PSW for her care and support and told her good-bye. Tom later, at 9:27 p.m. (and for the last time), texted the PSW from the hospital telling her that this was his final goodbye.

At the Hospital Emergency area, they were placed in Triage Room #7 and left alone behind a privacy curtain until a doctor could see them.  Shortly thereafter, a loud bang was heard and a nurse saw that Helen had been shot in the right side of her head. Tom commented to the nurse that Helen had shot herself.  She was immediately taken to the recovery room to try to save her life and 911 was called to obtain the assistance of police.

Two policemen arrived at the hospital and were told that despite the indication from Tom that Helen had shot herself, they were unable to locate the firearm. So the two policemen and a nurse went to Triage Room #7.  One of the police officers asked Tom if he had a weapon, and then repeated the question a second time. Tom then acknowledged that he did, while pulling the blanket down from his chest area and lifting his gun in his right hand.  He was repeatedly told to drop the gun but instead pointed it at the Officers so the nurse ran out of the room and the Officers shot Tom. After the first volley of shots, the officers observed that Tom was still moving underneath the blanket and they were unable to see the gun, so they shot him some more.  They fired their guns a combined total of 30 times.

More Details

  • The SIU report contains no names – not even the victims or Police Officers.
  • Tom’s gun was a “Taurus TCP handgun .380 calibre, semi-automatic pistol”.  The Police guns were Glocks.
  • Officer #2 fired 16 rounds; Officer #1 fired 14 rounds
  • Of the 30 rounds, 3 bullets were recovered from the west wall behind Tom’s bed and one was recovered from the floor in the adjacent room.
  • DNA tests confirmed that Tom loaded and handled the gun used to kill his wife.
  • The Coroner’s report confirmed that it was possible that Tom could still move even when riddled with bullets.
  • There was no monitor or CCTV in the Triage room where this took place.
  • Officers did not have a Taser


At 12:51 a.m. on October 28, 2018, a Hospital staff member called the 911 operator to report Helen’s  shooting. While she was supplying the operator with information, the police officers arrived and encountered Tom. They arrived one minute after receiving the call. Precisely two minutes and 27 seconds into the call, the first volley of police bullets was heard on the 911 tape. That volley lasted three seconds. A lull, which lasted 3.51 seconds ensued, during which time no shots were heard. A second volley of shots was heard which lasted a further three seconds. Elapsed time from the first sound of gunfire to the final shot was ten seconds.


The SIU report concluded with:

I find, therefore, on this record, that the shots that were fired, more than 20 of which struck and subsequently killed the Complainant [Tom], were justified pursuant to s. 25(1) and (3) of the Criminal Code, and that SO #1 [Officer#1] and SO #2 [Officer#2], in preserving themselves or others from the infliction of grievous bodily harm or death by the Complainant [Tom], used no more force than was necessary to affect their lawful purpose. As such, I lack the reasonable grounds to believe that the actions exercised by SO #1 [Officer#1] and SO #2 [Officer#2], fell outside the limits prescribed by the criminal law and instead find there are no grounds for proceeding with criminal charges in this case.

In a Press release, Police Chief Kai Liu said

“When this domestic homicide occurred, lives were forever changed. This tragic event touched the lives of Northumberland Hills Hospital staff, police officers, Special Constables, dispatchers, firefighters and paramedics and certainly stole a bit of our community’s innocence. During this event, we had hospital staff, physicians, security and police officers run towards personal danger to protect strangers they had never met. With their quick action of calling 911, the Emergency Department team protected patients under their care. Likewise, as I read the SIU report I am very proud of the heroic actions of my responding officers. Cobourg Police officers responded professionally as they were trained.

This tragic event has inspired the Northumberland Hills Hospital and Cobourg Police Service teams to work collaboratively to research, develop and implement enhanced Active Attacker training for hospital and police personnel. It’s our intention that this outcome will not only assist our own community in feeling safe, but also support other hospitals across our province and beyond as they too enhance measures to guard against gun violence.”


Special Investigator’s Unit (SIU) Full Report – on Gov’t of Ontario web site.

The original sources for these were in Northumberland Today which is now available in their Archive on the Northumberland News web site.

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24 November 2018 9:49 am

How often did the officers have to reload their Glocks to fire all those bullets?

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Albert
24 November 2018 11:30 am

The Glock 17 feeds from staggered-column or double stack magazines that have a 17-round capacity (which can be extended to 19 with an optional floor plate) or optional 33-round high-capacity magazines.”

The answer to your question: NONE!

Reply to  Wally Keeler
24 November 2018 3:04 pm

That Glock 17 looks like just the right kind of pistol for shooting Seniors lying in bed.
With Cobourg having a high Senior demographic makes us all feel a lot safer.
With the income from ‘police record checks’ us taxpayers don’t even have to shell out for those Glocks.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
24 November 2018 5:07 pm

The SIU report states that both officers had Glock 22 pistols.

Reply to  Frenchy
24 November 2018 5:31 pm

The Glock 22 is the .40 caliber S&W version, but is the same in function as the Glock 17, which uses the 9mm rounds.

Police use the .40 caliber, because it has more stopping power, but less chance of a shoot-thru on a target.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Frenchy
24 November 2018 6:18 pm

Ok, so do you think they had to reload their Glock 22s to get that magic 30 number?

Reply to  Wally Keeler
24 November 2018 6:42 pm

No, the smallest standard magazine for all Glock 22’s is 15 rounds. They may have emptied their guns, but there was no need to reload.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Dice
25 November 2018 8:14 am

that’s the point i’m making

Reply to  Wally Keeler
26 November 2018 2:30 pm

Well then, make your point and get on with it.
Don’t ask silly questions skirting around your point, trying to draw it out of Dice or someone else.
On November 6th you said “When I ask questions that means I want to know the answer because I do not know the answer.”

Reply to  Wally Keeler
25 November 2018 8:56 am

No, I don’t think they would have to. That number 30 could have been achieved a couple of ways, both involving SO#2’s weapon.
SO#1’s weapon was only fired 14 times, so that mean’s that SO#2’s weapon was:
1. using a 15 bullet magazine with one in the chamber
2. using a larger magazine. (stock 16 & 22 and I’m sure custom ones also available)
Apparently, SO#2 did reload his weapon but did not fire it after having done so.

23 November 2018 10:40 am

I wasn’t there and don’t know the sequence of events. There wasn’t a heck of a lot of time for officers to act. They came upon a scene with one deceased and an armed suspect who was less than cooperative in an emergency ward with patients and staff. Thirty rounds can be spent with two police sidearms in about 10 seconds or less. Police are taught to shoot to kill if deadly force is required. Expecting the police to shoot a gun out of someone’s hand or wing them like they do on TV is a bit much IMO.

23 November 2018 9:58 am
23 November 2018 8:24 am

” Likewise, as I read the SIU report I am very proud of the heroic actions of my responding officers.”

Hmm bit over the top when all they did was pump 30 bullets into a body on a bed in a room with only the officers and body in it. Self defence maybe, heroism questionable!

Wally Keeler
Reply to  ben
23 November 2018 3:34 pm

“…all they did was pump 30 bullets into a body…”

Yea, that’s all they did. No need for any counselling services for the officers. Just a normal day of police work plugging bullets into a body. How Ben is able to ascertain that the suspect was already dead when the police went in is beyond comprehension. My take is that this was not a body, but a (1) living person, who was (2) armed and (3) demonstrated lethal intent.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
24 November 2018 1:28 pm

” a body” does not automatically assume it is dead!! A body can be live.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  ben
24 November 2018 6:11 pm

. . . and it was armed and it demonstrated lethal intent. Generally speaking a body is a body, dead. The body was alive, had a personality with intentions; your treatment refers to it as nothing more than a carcass that police used for target practice. It is an insult to those police officers that had to face that lethal situation.

Not sure
23 November 2018 6:50 am

At one time , police were peace offices, were they were to trained to defuse a situation, now it appear police are trained like the military , and are trained to end a situation no matter who gets killed . Was Two volleys of 30 shots really need to defuse the situation ?

Reply to  Not sure
23 November 2018 1:22 pm

Ben/Not Sure
Spoken exactly like 2 people with no experience in a life or death decision situation…its easy to be an armchair critic and second guess the decisions of those who run towards danger while others run from it.

Reply to  Rob
24 November 2018 10:23 pm

If I had and Glock whatever and a bulletproof vest I wouldn’t run from danger.
I would stand my ground ground and waste the perps.
Pow pow pow pow pow.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Albert
25 November 2018 8:16 am

Having sweat dreams?

Reply to  Wally Keeler
25 November 2018 9:38 am


Wally Keeler
Reply to  Albert
26 November 2018 8:15 am

You missed, again. POWetry Prevails.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
26 November 2018 9:48 am

Is powetry your kind that does not rhyme?
Podryetry does rhyme, but is much harder to do.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Albert
26 November 2018 1:19 pm

Doggerel at best. Stick to prose Albert; you are NO poet.

Reply to  Not sure
23 November 2018 6:06 pm

Let’s not forget about the ‘mentally challenged” youth, on the street car, who only had a small pen knife and was ‘drilled with lead’ till he was dead.
Where are we going with ‘gun control’ or lack there of? How can we ever understand, how ANY human being, with a loaded fire arm, in their hands, will react in ANY situation, whether it be War or a domestic/police situation? …..I’m sure no one knows…….guns do kill people…….!