Winnipeg police are grieving for one of their own, a storied officer who was once a championship-level boxer and was known as an outstanding street cop.
Const. Peter O'Kane succumbed to a head injury Wednesday after an off-duty fall down the stairs of a friend's home on the weekend. He was 42.
The popular officer, who was born in Ireland, died from critical brain trauma. He had been on life-support following the mishap.
Fellow officers learned the news through an internal memo.
"We lost a great heart," one officer said. "He was a good spirit. There are a lot of police officers in mourning."
Another police source said O'Kane had put a recent court case behind him and was entering a new phase of his career. He was also in a new relationship and in love.
O'Kane was in peak physical shape, said the colleague.
"People who thought they knew Peter thought he was dumb because of the way he spoke. He slurred his speech. They had no idea how intelligent he was. He was into history and geography and current affairs," the source said.
He said O'Kane exemplified old-school policing. "It's what he wanted to do more than anything. He didn't like bullies," he said.
"Pete was the kind of guy our dads would've been proud to call a friend," said the source. "I don't know if they plan to donate any of his organs, but if they do, whoever gets his heart is going to have quite a heart to deal with."
O'Kane was once the No. 2-ranked cruiserweight in Canada. His fight career began in 1999 while employed as a police officer and ended in 2006. He was trained by Winnipeg's Donny "The Golden Boy" Lalonde, a former world champion.
He once challenged an associate of the Hells Angels, Ralph "Junior" Moar, to a sanctioned bout in the ring, only to have police brass nix the fight, citing a conflict of interest.
More recently, O'Kane was cleared of perjury in a February 2011 decision, only to have the acquittal reversed earlier this fall on appeal.
The charges stemmed from an allegedly improper search of a downtown hotel room — he and his partner were alleged to have lied to a magistrate to obtain a search warrant — and the seizure of nearly a kilogram of cocaine and $18,000 cash in 2005. The Crown stayed drug-trafficking charges against the suspect and an accomplice when questions were raised at a preliminary hearing about the validity of the police search warrant.