EDMONTON — A police officer who was gunned down while trying to serve an arrest warrant in a quiet residential neighbourhood is being remembered as someone who took great pains to help victims of hate crimes.
Const. Daniel Woodall’s death in Edmonton on Monday sparked tributes across Canada and in the United Kingdom where people recalled that he grew up determined to serve the public in law enforcement.
Kris Wells, a University of Alberta professor who is co-director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies, said Woodall put him at ease last year after he made a harassment complaint.
“I said to Daniel, ‘What I need to know is, am I safe?’ And he turned to me and said, ‘It is my job to ensure that your are safe,'” Wells said Tuesday. “He knew how important it was to build those relationships of trust and empathy and respect against communities that are all too frequently targeted with hate crimes.”
Wells said Woodall attended gay-straight alliance meetings to work with students on issues of homophobic bullying and hate.
“Here was somebody who had such a passion to eradicate hate who became a victim of such a terrible hate-motivated crime.”
A photograph of Woodall, 35, with his wife, Claire, and two young sons shows a happy man with a big smile.
The couple moved to Canada nine years ago from Manchester, U.K., to start a new life and a family.
Chief Rod Knecht said Claire Woodall told police her husband died doing a job he loved.
She also wrote on Twitter: “Your generous outpouring of love for myself and my boys fills my heart. He is my hero, our boys’ hero and Edmonton’s newest hero.”
Word of Woodall’s death hit members of the Edmonton Police Service hard.
Sgt. Maurice Brodeur choked back tears as he recalled having coffee with Woodall on Friday.
Brodeur said Woodall was known for his grin, sense of humour, love of soccer and his dedication.
“He was loved. He was just truly a good person. Loved his kids. A great dad,” he said. “This guy was one of the great ones. It is just breaking our hearts.”
Woodall graduated as an Edmonton police recruit in 2007 and was assigned to the hate-crimes unit in 2013.
Before coming to Canada, he had served four years with the Greater Manchester Police in the United Kingdom.
Det. Insp. Jim Faulkner told the Manchester Evening News that Woodall was an ebullient man who was always volunteering for new challenges.
“He would do anything for any of his colleagues, every one of whom liked him and were sad when he decided to leave for Canada,” he told the paper.
Stuart Larsen told the Evening News that serving as a police officer in North America was his son-in-law’s dream.
“He was a great lad, an outgoing, friendly guy who lived for his wife and family, and the job he loved. It was everything he wanted.”
Larsen said he and his wife and Woodall’s parents plan to fly to Edmonton for the funeral.
Brodeur said he still can’t believe that Woodall is gone.
“They had their children here. He embraced this country,” he said. “Here is a person who wanted to serve and wanted to be a protector.
“And he nobly served and he died in the course of his duties.”
John Cotter, The Canadian Press