Man on bike dies after road rage incident involving prominent politician in Ontario, Canada

Posted by on September 3rd, 2009 at 11:00 am

A tragic road rage story has been making international headlines. On Monday evening in Ontario, Canada, a bike messenger has died after a road rage altercation with a prominent political figure.

Witnesses describe seeing a black convertible going 90 kilometers an hour the wrong way down a street in an upscale Toronto shopping district with 33 year old Darcy Allan Shepard hanging off the driver’s side window as the driver steered the car repeatedly onto the sidewalk, driving as close as possible to signposts and light poles on the side of the road.

After an impact with a mailbox, Sheppard fell off the side of the car and was crushed under its rear wheels. He died in the hospital.

The car’s driver, former Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant was arrested and charged with criminal negligence in the case. Upon his release yesterday, he made a public statement declaring his innocence.

Bryant, 43, left the government three months ago to head a municipal agency called Invest Toronto. A Harvard educated lawyer, he has hired a high profile communications firm to advise him on his public statements and handling of the case. The government has called in an out-of-province prosecutor to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest.

In an interview with the Toronto Globe and Mail, Sheppard’s girlfriend reveals that he had left her apartment intoxicated shortly before the incident, and that he had been briefly detained by police. Despite friends’ pleas that the police drive him home, officers say they decided that he was sober enough to ride home by himself.

The Globe and Mail also reports on a 200+ person vigil and protest held at the location of the incident.

Story continues below

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Here in Portland two road rage cases including cars and bikes that occurred this month are being handled by the DA’s office.

Last month, in another dragging case, a man on a bike was dragged 150 feet down E Burnside after an altercation at 1:00am. He suffered burns and abrasions to his feet and body.

Last week, in what appears to be another road rage incident, a man who had been on a bicycle was hospitalized after another man allegedly backed his SUV into him at high speed in a parking lot on E 122nd Ave.



Other coverage:
– The Toronto Globe and Mail and CTV have extensive coverage, including a sobering series of videos
– Streetsblog has a thoughtful analysis of the Ontario incident and an interesting discussion of the culture of road rage.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

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Brad Reber
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Brad Reber

The witness in the video said the driver was doing 90. This happened in Canada so that is probably 90kph not 90mph.

Yikes, thanks for catching that, Brad. — Elly

beth h
Guest

Criminal “negligence”??!?

Negligence connotes a mistake, an unintentional act, even (charitably speaking now) a boner.

Driving your car deliberately into a lightpost to get rid of someone hanging off the side, whom you may have hit, is a deliberate and malicious act. Rolling over them after you’ve knocked them off your car is a violent crime and should be prosecuted as such. At the very least this guy should be charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Criminal “negligence” is an utterly ridiculous ruling in this case, and another example of why so many bicyclists have little faith in the judicial system when it comes to car-bike impacts of any kind.

hanmade
Guest
hanmade

“…they decided that he was sober enough to ride home by himself.”

That implies he rode a bicycle home??!!
Or did he drive home in a car?

Bent Bloke
Guest
Bent Bloke

beth h @2:

The victim died, so it should be murder. The report states the “… driver steered the car repeatedly onto the sidewalk, driving as close as possible to signposts and light poles on the side of the road.” Sounds intentional to me.

A former attorney general for cripes sake! Oh Canada!

Hillson
Guest
Hillson

Probably best not to ever visit Canada if the police are letting the bicyclists be killed by the politicians.

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

The whole incident is far too complicated to sum up in one article, and that’s with the limited information that’s available so far. There are many, many unanswered questions:
Exactly how to their interaction begin?
What were the two men yelling at each other?
Was Shepard drunk? How drunk?
Why was Shepard holding onto the side of Bryant’s car? What was he holding onto (door/mirror, wheel, headrest, Bryant’s head/neck — all have been considered)?
Did Bryant run Shepard over with his back tires intentionally?

Criminal negligence causing death (s. 220 of the Criminal Code) is actually a very serious charge, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Criminal negligence is defined as doing anything that “shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.” None of the assault provisions in the Canadian Criminal Code are this serious (and, by the way, there is no provision specifically dealing with deadly weapons) — not assault (s. 266), not assault with a weapon (s. 267), and not aggravated assault (s. 268).

Also, as an aside, Bryant hasn’t been Attorney General for some time. He was reassigned in October 2007 as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and was again reassigned in September 2008 as Minister of Economic Development.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

beth h, criminal negligence is not the same thing as negligence. Criminal negligence involves a failure to foresee the results of one’s actions, when they should have been foreseeable.

In this case, criminal negligence likely means that although he didn’t intend to kill the messenger, he failed to foresee that his actions would likely result in the messenger’s death.

ME 2
Guest
ME 2

I’ve been following this story and how it is being covered since it broke a few days ago.

The incident started when the cyclist was riding back to his GF’s apartment and the driver was honking his horn trying to pass.

The cyclist did not move and the driver apparently bumped him knocking him off his bike.

The cyclist, was enraged (understandably so)and he slammed his backpack on the hood of the car. He also went to the driver’s door and tried to open it.

That’s when the driver snapped and took off crossing a lane of traffic, going on to the sidewalk and sideswiping a fire hydrant or mailbox knocking the cyclist off.

In this light Beth H criminal negligence is the correct charge. Deliberate would imply he hunted down the cyclist who somehow wound up clinging to his door. Unfortunately, the tragic events that transpired were a reaction on the driver’s part. He is also being charged with a dangerous driving offence.

To #3 he was cycling home and the fact that his GF and friends are coming out saying he was too intoxicated to be on the road only bolster’s the defense’s case.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Thanks for that clarification, Sarah.

Basically, that statute is applicable when the defendant didn’t intentionally kill another person, but acted with such a high degree of negligence (wanton or reckless disregard of human life) that the other person’s death was a likely result.

To charge the defendant with something more serious than criminal negligence causing death, you’d have to prove that the defendant intentionally killed the victim.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

I read the Globe and Mail story ‘A cyclist dead, a political star tarnished’. The courier, in the words of one of his neigbors was: “drunk as a clunk,”

“Neighbour Annette Wabie said Mr. Sheppard was “drunk as a clunk,” though a police source said he’d only had a few drinks. …. “He started biking two, three feet and he falls off his bike because he’s so drunk,” she said. Globe Mail

It seems as though Bryant, the driver of the car, had his wife sitting in the car next to him during the entire incident. Being right there in hearing range of her husband’s exchange with Sheppard, the courier, she’ll have something to say about how the incident started.

Just me speculating…still, if someone grabs hold of your open convertible initially traveling at a relatively low speed and the driver wants to get away from the person hanging on, might not stopping the car and running the other direction be the more reasonable thing to do? Or perhaps not, if the dude’s drunken breath is in your face and you have some concern that he might be armed with a weapon…maybe even..a gun.

Driving crazily at 90k what’s that? 55mph? through city streets onto sidewalks up against building and lamp poles wont go in Bryants favor. More than a little road rage on both sides might have been present here.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

wsbob, I doubt the defendant’s wife will have anything to say about the incident– spousal privilege. It’s what prevents the state from compelling spouses to testify against each other, something that would be akin to self-incrimination.

BURR
Guest
BURR

my understanding is that the provincial police are going out of their way to find evidence implicating the cyclist

BURR
Guest
BURR

several local Toronto cyclists commenting on this story here:

http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=580401

Velocentric
Guest
Velocentric

If some angry (drunk?) guy reached into my car and was grabbing on to me (like by the throat) I’d be trying to scrape him into street furniture with my accelerator pedal too. Bryant likely was in a panicked survival mode. Or certainly could argue that.

The police who released a drunk roaduser back onto a public road may bear some scrutiny here. You can bet anybody picked up for suspected intoxication in Ontario is going to spend the WHOLE night in jail from now on.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

I hear you rixtir. I had only thought about what she would likely be inclined to say in support of his actions. Though, if his actions were thought to be very defensible, his lawyers could consider the possibility of having her testify for him… . Isn’t that correct?

Bryant’s already got a high powered spin team working for him. I wonder if the deceased will get anything comparable. A wife and four kids left behind is tough. People and their excessive drinking… .

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

His lawyers would certainly be within their rights to have her testify, but putting her on the stand would remove spousal privilege, and open her up to cross-examination. That’s a pretty risky move, so I doubt any defense team would do that, unless there was absolutely no doubt in their minds that the defendant’s actions were beyond reproach.

Zaphod
Guest

I am beginning to wonder if all of the road-rage coverage is creating the same fears and anxiety that the mainstream media is with their combative anti-cycling tone.

Although, this article is based upon facts versus hype. At the core, I suppose I’m really just bummed when I read about this stuff and wish it wasn’t happening at all.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

A troubled past

Cyclist came to Toronto looking to beat demons

http://www.torontosun.com/news/torontoandgta/2009/09/03/10728761-sun.html

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Zaphod: I’ve kind of been wondering the same thing. When I read a road rage story posted from another country it got me to thinking: what’s the purpose of this story? To get people angry? To make people scared? The paragraph at the end that added the connection between two incidents in Portland and the incident in Toronto seems pretty flimsy.

Jonathan has several times called out the local media for creating an “us vs them” mentality with their “car wars” coverage. I think he should take a hard look at stories like this one and consider whether or not he’s contributing to that mentality.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

RE: WSBOBs comment about the rider packing a gun…I doubt he was packing heat…this is Canada we are talking about. (I will await to hear from the Canadian readers about gun use in more detail.)

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

From the Globe Mail’s Christie Blatchford, another interesting take on this incident

Bryant’s story shocking and sobering – but also far too common-Details that suggest cyclist had been drinking may help former Ontario Attorney-General muster a solid legal defence – but is there room for a moral one?

An excerpt:

“For as the cyclist will always physically lose in any contest with a car, so the driver of a car always will yield the high ground to the cyclist. In any modern version of the Biblical parable of David and Goliath, including this one, Goliath doesn’t get to say, “Well, he used his slingshot first” or “David started it.” Globe/Christie Blatchford

Incidentally, noting a story told in the article, of a personal experience of the writer, I believe this writer posted a comment about road rage earlier in the week on one of the bikeportland articles about driver Wayne Thompsons attack on bike rider Michael Luther.

Also, I may have got that wrong about Sheppard’s partner; girlfriend, not wife.

Phr3dly
Guest
Phr3dly

@beth h

Is that the legal definition of “criminal negligence”

I don’t know how the Canadian system works, but in the US you may be charged with something initially to get the wheels turning. Once all the evidence has been considered, the charge may very likely be changed.

Sometimes it’s better to give things a couple weeks to sort themselves out.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Sounds like murder to me.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Todd, you’re most likely right. But still, criminals…not saying Sheppard was one…don’t necessarily comply with the law, even in Canada, I would think.

I had in mind the discussion in the last few days on this weblog with commnenters conjecturing at length about the possible benefits people riding bikes might gain from carrying guns as self defense.

With that kind of thinking going on, it might not be unreasonable for road users, especially in this country where carrying guns can be legal, to consider the possibility that a drunk hanging onto the side of their car might be dangerously armed with a gun. Hopefully, today still, that would have to be a stretch of the imagination.

beth h
Guest

I’m not a lawyer and although it clearly has a different meaning in the courts, I guess the term “criminal negligence” still doesn’t make sense to me from a literal standpoint. Even though I’m still scratching my head on this one, thanks to all respondents for the education.

Paul
Guest

Be interesting to see if we ever get a clear picture of what happened. At first I was all about this guy getting everything thrown at him. Plenty of commentary on MetaFilter too, including reports that police are not denying that the cyclist had the driver in a headlock. Provides for the driver trying to get away from a drunken, crazed man attacking him….

http://www.metafilter.com/84664/Former-Ontario-Attorney-General-Michael-Bryant-involved-in-death-of-Toronto-cyclist#2724057

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

beth h, in any homicide, there are going to be degrees of culpability. Was the homicide intentional or unintentional? If unintentional, was it through no fault of the person who killed. or did the defendant’s own actions lead to the unintentional killing? If intentional, was it “heat of the moment,” or was it planned in advance and carried out?

The charge in this case reflects a culpability that is more serious than an unintended homicide that occurred through no fault of the defendant, but does not quite rise to the level of an intent to kill.

Ryan
Guest

Todd Boulanger, though not common for people here in Canada to carry a gun, Toronto has had a history of gun violence.

Jabin
Guest
Jabin

Um some of you are talking like the poor guy was just driving along and some crazed drunk biker attacked him..
“The cyclist did not move and the driver apparently bumped him knocking him off his bike.”

Yappa
Guest

The story may be somewhat different than it initially appeared. Witnesses are saying that the cyclist leaned way into the convertible on the driver’s side, putting the driver in a headlock and grabbing the wheel, steering the car onto the opposite sidewalk. Nearby stores have video cameras but they’re grainy; however it should be possible to find out exactly what happened.

Forensics will also tell us about the cyclist’s blood alcohol level: there have been conflicting reports about how drunk he was.

Drivers’ attitudes towards bikes is a serious problem but this may not be a case of it. It is possible that the driver is the victim here.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Elly: In response I’d like to quote a Newsweek article on supposed “growing pains” in Portland:

“An escalating war between two-wheelers and four-wheelers, brought on by sky-high gas prices? Absolutely not, insist cyclists, city officials and the local newspaper, which has called the hoopla “a war of anecdotes.” Injuries to cyclists remain steady even as ridership surpasses record levels, according to statistics kept by the city. Portland was recently named one of two “platinum” U.S. cities by the League of American Bicyclists, and most agree that there’s safety in numbers; more pedestrians and cyclists on the road means more awareness and greater caution on the part of drivers.”

How many bike/car road rage incidents have been reported in the news this year? How many last year? As Jonathan, the city of Portland, and others have shown, the bike crash rate has declined steadily as cycling has grown exponentially in the city.

I’d argue that our “growing pains” are a relative handful of incidents, the number of incidents is relatively steady each year despite the fact that growth rates in Portland have been somewhere near 20% year over year for the last few years. These news stories are sensational, but don’t really teach us anything, much like a shark attack or getting struck by lightning. As someone who rides his bike in a traffic lane every rush hour workday, I see very little hostility, and generally a fair amount of overly cautious behavior by motorists (allowing me to merge, waving me through stop signs, etc), stuff that I’m much less likely to see when I’m behind the wheel myself.

In sum, I’d argue that the few reported road rage incidents are not at all representative of growing pains or any sort of public opinion about cycling, and that trying to generalize on sensational stories such as these doesn’t do anybody (on 2 wheels or 4) any good. I believe Jonathan has written a few articles on this site that concur with my opinion.

chelsea
Guest
chelsea

It was said on bikeforums.net that this incident, when first reported, was a hit and run?

ME 2
Guest
ME 2

At #21, Wsbob, that was me who posted that excerpt a few days ago in the local thread about the guy charged with backing over a cyclist on 122nd. I’m not Christie Blanchford. I have the wrong body parts, but I’m a Canadian who lives in Portland so I read the Globe and Mail regularly to keep track of what is going on in my home and native land.

To #30, I was stating some facts that lead up to how the cyclist wound up clinging to the car door for his life. I feel charges and some sort of punishment for the driver is ultimately warranted because it was his negligence that lead to the loss of a human life.

I would never condone a car bumping a cyclist just because the rider is impeding the driver’s ability to pass. If someone bumped me off my bike I would be plenty upset.

The driver clearly started and finished this altercation, but it took 2 people to escalate this thing. As a regular bike commuter it is stories like this one that serve as a strong reminder that if I’m ever in an altercation with a driver that I’ll try as hard as I can to keep my anger in check and remember I’m dealing with someone who could potential use their vehicle as a weapon.

Bahueh
Guest
Bahueh

another confrontation between two drunk a-holes resulting the death of one of them… what a freaking waste.

the car will win 99% of the time folks…just walk away.

old&slow
Guest
old&slow

yclist was wanted in Edmonton

By DON PEAT, SUN MEDIA

Edmonton police had been looking for Darcy Allan Sheppard since 2002.

Sheppard, 33, died in an incident with a motorist along Bloor St. W. late Monday.

Michael Bryant, Ontario’s former attorney general, has been charged in connection with the crash.

Back in 2002 the then 27-year-old was slapped with 56 criminal warrants for an alleged cheque fraud scheme.

Sheppard has been known to use stolen cheques and likes to frequent gambling establishments, cops told the Edmonton Sun at the time.

Investigators said he frequented the city’s Jasper Ave. area and had, in the past, slept in the North Saskatchewan River valley.

Police said he often rode a bike and kept his hair cut short.

Sheppard, 33, was riding a bike Monday night when he had a minor collision with Bryant’s convertible.

That lead to several encounters along Bloor St.W. and a confrontation that led to Sheppard becoming attached to the car and being dragged across the street before falling off the car and suffering fatal injuries.

Edmonton police warned seven years ago that Sheppard had a history of violence and should not be approached.

He also went by the name Darcy Shane Cardinal.

Opus the Poet
Guest

The PR war against the cyclist has already started. I noticed some “astroturfing” against the cyclist in the comments sections that was picked up and repeated by the news sites verbatum a few hours later.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

The thing about stuff that happened seven years ago is it could tell you what the person is like today IF the person hasn’t grown or changed, or it could tell you nothing about what the person is like today, if the person has grown or changed.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Even when reported with effort towards avoiding a sensationalism, this incident is inescapably sensational. I thought the Globe-Mail’s article writers and the statements of witnesses within it showed remarkable reserve in telling of what went on and of what they saw and heard.

Stress and tension on the road is a big issue. Most people having been on the road probably understand this. Seeing though, the length to which stress and tension experienced on the road can affect even a presumably mature person with a far better than average familiarity with the law of the land is startling.

There are at least two or three things the two main figures in this incident could have easily done to minimize stress and tension, averting the tragic consequence that ensued. They didn’t do them. Why not? That’s a I would think that anyone that uses the road can benefit from thinking about.

ME 2″…the wrong body parts,..” Hey? Glad you mentioned that. I’d forgot it was an excerpt and not the actual person posting their story.

old&slow
Guest
old&slow

rixtir, the point of my post was just to provide some background and facts to the discussion. A person can change in seven years but the cyclist was really drunk according to his girlfriend and had a history that doesn’t exactly warrant giving him the benefit of the doubt. Just because a person rides a bike doesn’t mean he can’t be a a$$hole. I am not defending the car driver, just trying to be a little “fair & balanced” until all the facts are in. The tendency here is to assume that every bike rider is Mother Teresa.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

My comment #40 “That’s a(insert ‘question’) I would think that anyone that uses the road can benefit from thinking about.”

old&slow…just read your comment #37, and also went to the story anonymous #18 provided a link to. Sheppard had some serious problems, that’s for sure.

BURR
Guest
BURR

I didn’t know Mother Teresa was a cyclist, thanks for that tidbit!

😉

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

I agree old&slow, some people on bikes are jerks, and I wasn’t taking you to task for posting that. Just countering the assumption the newspaper is inviting us to make, that’s all.

old&slow
Guest
old&slow

BURR, what is your point? I went to the site you referred to earlier for comments and found this.

“It’s beginning to look like Sheppard was the violent instigator of all of this. He hit Bryant’s car, slammed a backpack on the hood, then it looks like he went after the car to attack Bryant. And it seems that he was intoxicated.”

Personal insult deleted. – Elly

old&slow
Guest
old&slow

Does bikeportland “moderate” every response? They do mine. I won’t write in again, it is your site, I guess opinions that don’t reflect yours don’t get posted, Oh well.

Thanks for asking — we almost never delete responses, and never based on who you are or what your opinion is. WordPress has a program that will hold a comment for moderation if it contains certain words — one of them was used in your last comment, it looks like. There’s about 4 that queued up while I was at the grocery store. Going to check on them now.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

@ 45, I realize you’re only posting somebody else’s opinion, old&slow, but that opinion is willfully blind to what preceded the messenger’s anger– the driver was harassing him to get out of his way/off the road, and then apparently intentionally bumped him, knocking him off his bike.

I would ask the people who are expressing the opinion that Sheppard was the “violent insitigator of all this” what their emotional response would be to being intentionally bumped by a driver who was harassing them?

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

And as an addendum, I’d ask them why they felt it necessary to leave some crucial details out of their narrative.

PoPo
Guest
PoPo

I think cyclist (#32) made a thoughtful point. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this article repeated in the Oregonian, but am a little surprised to see it here.

Also, I read the link that was partially summarized by “…Despite friends’ pleas that the police drive him home, officers say they decided that he was sober enough to ride home by himself.”

The link says nothing about the police contacting him while he was on a bicycle. Nor does it suggest that they knew he was going to ride a bike home.

That could have been the case, but unless there’s more solid, specific information out there, I’m not sure we can conclude that yet.