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politics

Protesters Still Blame Michael Bryant for Bike Courier’s Death

A group of about 40 gathered outside the ROM on Thursday to protest an appearance by the former politician.

A group gathers outside the ROM to protest the appearance of former Attorney General Michael Bryant.

A silent group gathered on Thursday night outside the ROM. They were there to mourn the loss of bike courier Darcy Allan Sheppard and to protest the former provincial politician, Michael Bryant, who was making a public appearance inside.

Sheppard was killed three years ago, in an incident involving Bryant, not far from the ROM, at Bloor Street and Avenue Road. The courier was riding his bike down Bloor Street when he got into an altercation with Bryant, who was driving a Saab convertible. Bryant’s wife was in the passenger seat. Things quickly escalated. Sheppard grabbed hold of the car, and Bryant sped away. In the ensuing chaos, Sheppard was killed.

Bryant was charged with criminal negligence causing death, and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, but those charges were withdrawn by Vancouver Special Prosecutor Richard Peck, who explained he did not believe there was a reasonable prospect of conviction.

Bryant, a former St. Paul’s MPP and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, who at one time served as Ontario’s attorney general, was appearing at the ROM to speak about policy options for Aboriginal self-governance and the Kelowna Accord, as part of a New Grit Network event.

One of the organizers of the demonstration, Benjamin Mueller-Heaslip, said the protestors were there to make sure Sheppard’s death was not brushed aside. Mueller-Heaslip was distributing flyers that said Bryant should not be in involved in setting public policy because of the incident. The flyers also questioned the efficacy of the Canadian legal system, saying that, in dismissing Bryant’s case, the courts had exposed an “inability to act independently.”

Photos by Geoffrey Mosher/Torontoist.

Comments

  • More info please

    Um, what was the event??

    • Anonymous

      From the article: “…was appearing at the ROM to speak about policy options for Aboriginal self-governance and the Kelowna Accord, as part of a New Grit Network event.”

  • Outraged

    I remember this case. Bryant lost it and killed the courier. Got off on a bunch of technicalities. Never even went to trial. If it had been me, I would be in jail right now. Justice was not done.

    • Less spin

      Your first two sentences contradict each other.

      • Frogmusik

        Clever wordplay. Not really that helpful.

  • Frogmusik

    As the Guardian article puts it:

    “The video of the initial encounter is clear: a cyclist pulls up in front of a stationary car at red traffic light, and stops; after a few moments, the car jerks forward, reverses and then drives straight into the cyclist, knocking him off his bike and onto the bonnet and off again. The car stops briefly, and then drives around the cyclist to carry on down the road. As the car passes, the cyclist grabs hold of the car. Exactly what happens next is not as obvious, as there is no video, but at least this much is not disputed: the car moves over into the oncoming carriageway, hits some street furniture on the sidewalk, denting its side-panels, and at some point, the cyclist loses his grip on the car and falls dead in the roadway.”

    If I hit a cyclist, whether it was by accident or intentional, and then drove him into a post, and then then sped away leaving the scene, I’d at least get charged.

    • Asdf

      FYI: He was charged… and through an investigation (whether you want to believe it was impartial or not) the charges were withdrawn.

      • Frogmusik

        Thanks Asdf – you are correct.

    • Anonymous

      Perhaps not, if you were a former AG and well-connected guy.

  • Less spin

    I would like to go on record with this: if I were driving along Bloor St. with my wife in the passenger seat and the top down and some drunken, raving lunatic reached in and grabbed the steering wheel I would likely have reacted exactly the same way as Bryant. There was no criminal intent whatsoever and, after he was charged, I believe the correct result (withdrawal of charges) was arrived at. It is a tragic case all around but sometimes accidents are just that: accidents.

    I would also like to say that the moment Sheppard got OFF his bike to up the ante on the altercation, he became a pedestrian. Ergo, Bryant did not kill a cyclist with his car, despite that being the main “message” everyone seems to take from this case. It does not change the fact that a man was killed, but it does change the image from Bryant running down a cyclist with his car to Sheppard being quite likely the architect of his own doom.

    • Frogmusik

      Have you seen the video footage?

      A. Sheppard was drunk.
      B. Bryant struck him from behind with his vehicle, while Sheppard was stopped at a red light.
      C. Sheppard, after being struck from behind, then got off his bike.

      I am not saying that Bryant was guilty or innocent. That’s for a court to decide. THERE WAS NO TRIAL.

    • scunny

      All of what you describe happened AFTER Bryant’s car had struck Sheppard at least once. Why have you omitted that little detail from your comment.

      Why do you contend that Sheppard grabbed the steering wheel when Mr. Peck’s presentation to the court didn’t mention it. NAVIGATOR Ltd’s early spin did speculate to that effect, however.

      This is the 21st century, eh? We don’t refer to vehicular homicides as “accidents” anymore.

      We’re all pedestrians, eh? Some local amateur bike riders may have used this argument to avoid any association with Sheppard. They should be ashamed of themselves. But rest assured, Bryant killed a cyclist.

      Unfortunately none of this will ever go away until the extensive police report – including the crime scene reconstruction – is publicly released.

      Sadly for Bryant, it is something that will follow him wherever he goes for the rest of his days. But he has become merely a pawn in the larger story. The issue remains how Peck’s biased version of confrontation resulted in the judge accepting the special prosecutor’s slanted take on the events of that horrific evening.

    • Adarcy

      The ante was upped by Bryant. If you saw the video footage, you would know that Sheppard was rammed off his bike by the car driven by Bryant.

  • Anonymous

    With all due sympathy to Sheppard and his family, the facts are:

    A. Sheppard was drunk (as was corroborated by his girlfriend.)

    B. He had a documented history of aggression toward motorists.

    C. Bryant did not hit and run—he drove a half block to a hotel and called police HIMSELF.

    D. While he bears culpability, it really seems like a large contingent has simply decided that because he’s rich and powerful, he must’ve gotten away with murder, and that Sheppard is some kind of blameless super-victim. The reality is that it’s extremely difficult to know what happened, with only a handful of eyewitness testimony and some fuzzy, audio-less video. The self-righteous quality of the “Sheppard is a murderer” crowd is really offensive.

    • scunny

      A. Sheppard was sober enough to be questioned by police and sent home on his bike just before the altercation.

      B. The bulk of said “documented history” presented by the defense was never subject to impartial scrutiny through cross examination in court. Yet db accepts it as fact.

      C. Bryant left the scene of the slaying thereby allowing him to alter any evidence the car may have provided and hampering any collision reconstruction.

      D. Agreed, the labeling of Bryant as a “murderer” is offensive since he was not convicted of such and the public has not yet seen the extensive police report.

      However the NAVIGATOR Ltd. spin that vilified the victim here in an attempt to save the killer’s future political career is REALLY offensive.

      E. Whose actions initiated the physical aspect of the confrontation?

      • Chefwendyb

        As was later stated, Sheppard was NOT sober enough to be sent on his way. Everything that happened later goes back to those 2 cops letting him stagger away knowing how drunk and angry he already was. It was not a “slaying” and if Bryant hadn’t been a public figure I doubt very much if the legal outcome would have been any different. Sheppard did reach in and hang on to the steering wheel in a drunken rage. His death is a terrible tragedy but it is far to easy for all of us to sit back and pass judgement based on what little we might know or not know from a biased media and a few seconds of fuzzy video. What would you do if some lunatic bike rider you had accidently “bumped” (not struck), began screaming incoherently and reached in and grabbed your steering wheel. I would instinctivly step on the gas. I would be terrified. I would probably lose control for a moment in the panic. The “victim” took an active part in his own demise. That is the tragedy, both for him and his family. Is it really necessary to destroy the life of a good man for a terrible 5 minutes he would, no doubt, take back in a heart beat?
        Let ye who is without sin cast the first stone!

        • scunny

          Let’s see the police report, eh? Your biased account based on what you believe you think you know is quite telling. You are the only one casting stones here. I and many, many others are merely asking questions that still deserve answers.

        • Anonymous

          Usually when people panic and try to get someone off their car by driving away, they don’t go over to the wrong side of the road and then smash their attacker against trees and newspaper boxes. It’s not like in the movies.

          • stopitman

            Usually when people panic they don’t drive straight, either.

            With regards to the impartial aspects – they had a cop from Vancouver do the investigation, not the OPP or TPS, there’s not much more you could do. Based on the fuzzy aspects of the case, I seriously doubt that a judge would’ve found him guilty as there is reasonable doubt and lots of it in the details. The Vancouver cop was right in dropping the case because it wouldn’t have done much in the courts.

          • Frogmusik

            I suppose they could streamline our court backlog this way – let one man decide without due process. But then again, determining guilt or innocence, or what constitutes a reasonable doubt is the whole job of our court system. It’s quite possible Bryant would have been found innocent, but the threshold for laying (and not withdrawing) charges is not as rigorous as that for finding someone guilty. Regardless of whether you think Bryant would have been found innocent or guilty, Al Sheppard deserved a trial, at the very least. We’re using conditional tenses, and no one can really agree on the details, especially since much has not been made public.

            Al Sheppard deserved a trial. Power and privilege, not justice, took even that away from him.

          • scunny

            The TORONTO POLICE SERVICES did the investigation. It was the specially appointed prosecutor Richard Peck that was brought in from BC.

            His presentation to the court explaining the reasons for dropping the charges was anything but unbiased however.

            While one agrees that chances of convicting Bryant were remote at best, Peck’s explanation was little more than a regurgitation of the NAVIGATOR spun defense argument.

            This is not the job of the prosecutor, is it?

            The upshot of it all is that the general public has been led to believe that Bryant had been absolved. This is simply not the truth.

            The most outrageous aspect of this tragedy going forward is that Bryant seems to think he can take a fellow citizen’s life in full public view on one of Toronto’s main streets and then resume a career in politics without ever having to explain his actions publicly. I panicked and now forget what happened, is not the enough to again receive the public’s trust.

            Or at least it shouldn’t be.

          • bzine

            I’m still waiting for:

            (puts car in park) “OH MY GOD ARE YOU OK?”

            (flashers on)

            (gets out of car) “ARE YOU HURT?”

            (Mrs Bryant pulls out cell phone) “Do you want us to call an ambulance?”

        • Frogmusik

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFISP_PrhFo&sns=fb

          If you watch the security footage, I’m not sure how you really can think of it as a bump. If someone did that to me, I’d probably be mighty upset. He was thrown off his bike and dragged.

          • Anonymous

            The fact that you assume I must be on Bryant/Navigator’s payroll speaks to a real paranoia. I disagree that the case is cut and dry. We don’t know what words were exchanged between the two, nor how extreme Sheppard’s reaction was (if he grabbed the car and refused to let go as Bryant drove away, or shouted threats, the confusion and fright of the moment goes some way to explaining Bryant’s reaction.)

            I never said he grabbed the wheel–eyewitness accounts have him grabbing the mirror, and the doorframe. The video you posted takes place after the initial encounter. It looks as as if both have stopped to speak–Bryant recklessly thinks he has room to drive away, but Sheppard is too close, or hangs on.

            We have all seen the videos from previous weeks of Sheppard shouting and hitting and clinging to cars. Frankly, he doesn’t sound like a reasonable person. he sounds like an alcoholic with anger-management issues. That doesn’t mean he deserved to die, but it means that shit is very, very complicated. I am giving some degree of benefit-of-the-doubt to Bryant, simply because he’s been turned into a super-villain by a certain ultra-militant wing of the bike-courier culture–who, sorry if you’re part of it, are not exactly the most responsible and civil road users. (About on par with cabbies for reckess driving.).

            Of course, Bryant too has been reputed to be a hotheaded guy–so I have no doubt that he may have overreacted to Sheppard’s own overreaction. In that case, he does bear blame. Maybe criminal. Maybe not. You don’t know, and neither do I. The fact that you think you can determine guilt or innocence better than a judge or jury, simply by watching some fuzzy security-cam video of part of the incident, and lapsing into your pre-existing prejudice, speaks volumes about your judgement.

      • Anonymous

        I’m not trying to exonerate Bryant. I have no idea how guilty or not guilty he is. But neither do you. My gut feeling? Two hotheads met, tragedy ensued. I think it’s fair to say that the documented history is very well documented, by his father, his girlfriend, and video from just weeks earlier in a different altercation.

        Also, the police don’t generally detain someone for being drunk.

        Agreed, the Navigator spin was offensive. Hey, it’s a scuzzy PR firm. What do you expect? Still doesn’t prove anything one way or the other.

        • scunny

          I have never claimed to know exactly what happened. One just asks unanswered questions.

          But in reading public reaction right from the get go, there sure seems to be a lot of misinformed folks out there who think they know all they need to know about the events that night.

          Why is that?

          I have said from the beginning that we should all wait until we have all the information before we come to any conclusions, but that information was never forthcoming.

          If the admittedly panicky and forgetful Mr. Bryant wants to again seek public office would we all agree that he himself should authorize the unredacted release of the police report – including the former alleged crime scene reconstruction – before asking voters to trust in his ability to represent anyone?

        • Mb133

          Sorry db, what you are expressing as “gut feeling” ignores known facts that 1) Bryant struck Sheppard from behind at a stoplight and knocked him to the ground; 2) Sheppard, like any reasonable person was upset; 3) Bryant did not know Sheppard had been drinking or had ever been in a fight in his life; 3) Sheppard was acting as any reasonable person would do in such a situation and demand (by witness accounts) that Bryant remain at the scene until police came 4) Bryant tried to drive off; 4) Sheppard grabbed the MIRROR of the car (by witness accounts and never contradicted by Bryant); 5) Bryant purposefully, by video and witness accounts, scraped Sheppard off of his car by ramming street furniture.

          db, you have taken ONE side of this, Bryant’s. You stated things, like Sheppard grabbed the wheel, that were NEVER in any witness account, video record or even claimed by Bryant – they were published in biased speculation in op-ed stories the following day.

          db, you are going out of your way to repeat these falsehoods, why? Are you working for Bryant? Why do you need to come onto the internet and lie about this?

          • Anonymous

            Sorry. Mb, I accidentally replied up below below Frogmusik’s video.

  • Anonymous

    In that last sentence, of course, swap Sheppard’s name with Bryant’s. My bad.

    • scunny

      drybrain indeed, eh? Let’s hope NAVIGATOR Ltd. doesn’t dock your pay for such a miscue.

      • Anonymous

        Boring…

    • Anonymous

      That’s what the “Edit” button is for.

  • AttorneyGeneralMafia

    One dead drunk junkie. Move on.

  • Angleometer

    Destiny collides

  • Angleometer

    Suckers helped him sell some books

  • Anonymous

    Clearly the courts should have been used to establish possible criminality, not a cosy exchange of views between a prosecutor friend of the family called in from back in Vancouver, and a PR firm. From the excellent youtube video footage, it appears quite clear that Bryant has at a bare minimum a manslaughter case to answer to. He rammed the cyclist clean off his bike from a stationary start, backed up, and attempted to drive off. The cyclist, getting to his feet, and confronted with a driver attempting to flee, grabbed instinctively for the car. Bryant then sped away and the cyclist was eventually knocked from the car and crushed to death.

    Anyone else would have had the full weight of the legal system crashing down on him in a full on trial, and might have faced a vehicular manslaughter conviction. How come his passenger “wife” was able to scoot off and disappear (potentially with evidence), and then resurface an hour or two later with different coloured hair to that which witnesses described at the kill scene?

    A woman in the UK was this week jailed for 4.5 years for driving with a pedestrian on the hood of her car and not immediately stopping. The pedestrian was uninjured. That sentence seems a little harsh. Maybe not. What do you think?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/video/2012/jun/07/falkirk-driver-jailed-bonnet-video

    Wonder what Bryant would have to say about it?

    Finally, heres the Guardian on Bryant himself…..
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/c­ifamerica/2010/may/28/toronto-­cycle-courier-death

  • Mary Grace Basa

    That’s accident no one should be blame. If Bryant was drunk then maybe it his fault. Stop protesting.

    Mary from Chauffage pétrole pas cher