Michael Bryant in police custody

Former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant sits in the back seat of a police cruiser near Bloor and Avenue Road in downtown Toronto, late Monday, Aug. 31, 2009.

Ontario's former attorney general allegedly involved in fatal hit-and-run in Yorkville area of Toronto on Monday night

Josh Wingrove

Toronto — Globe and Mail Update

Ontario's former attorney general Michael Bryant is in police custody after a fatal hit-and-run in Toronto's Yorkville neighbourhood Monday night.

The collision left a 33-year-old cyclist dead and both Mr. Bryant and his Saab convertible in police hands as traffic and homicide officers combed Bloor Street for evidence overnight. Mr. Bryant has not been charged.

Video from the scene

The ordeal began around 9:45 p.m., on Bloor Street between Bay Street and Avenue Road, at a traffic light. Police said the cyclist and a man in a convertible got into an “altercation.” What followed next is unclear, but according to witness accounts, the cyclist found himself gripping to the outside of the car driver's door as it sped away.

The car apparently swerved to the oncoming lane of traffic along Bloor, very close to the sidewalk that the cyclist hung over. “He started going (driving) onto the sidewalk,” said Manuel Machado, a construction worker standing on the street as it unfolded.

“I heard the tires screech,” said Ryan Brazeau, another worker. “He (the cyclist) was right literally at the front windshield, almost holding on to the driver.”

The driver was now going west in the eastbound curb lane, leaving the cyclist clinging to the curbside door of the car. The cyclist, clinging to the car as it sped away, then struck trees and a grey mailbox like a “human battering ram,” Mr. Brazeau said.

“You could hear hitting, something, bam, bam, bam,” a third worker said.

The cyclist fell off the car when he struck the mailbox, and collapsed in a heap of blood on the sidewalk in front of Sephora. The driver kept going, hanging a right at Avenue Road.

“He was going fast enough that we couldn't recognize the car or the license plate,” Mr. Brazeau said.

A car matching descriptions from other witnesses, registered to Mr. Bryant, was found a short time later in the parking lot of the Hyatt hotel, which sits on the northwest corner of Bloor and Avenue, just metres from the crash site.

Television images captured Mr. Bryant in the back of a police cruiser. He was arrested moments after the crash.


Former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant sits in the back seat of a police cruiser near Bloor and Avenue Road in downtown Toronto, late Monday, Aug. 31, 2009.

The car had extensive damage to the right driver's side door; the passenger door, and the front driver's side fender. The car was taken away on a police tow truck around 5:20 a.m. by an officer with a set of keys.

The injured man, meanwhile, was bleeding from his mouth and ears, and from several gashes across his face. Paramedics rushed him to hospital without vital signs just before 10 p.m., and he was pronounced dead just after 11 p.m., Toronto police Traffic Services Sergeant Tim Burrows said.

His name wasn't released. Sgt. Burrows confirmed that the death “appears as a result of coming into contact with some objects on the side of the road.”

Several people, including someone "closely related" to Mr. Bryant, called 911, police said.

The workers told police they believed it appeared that the driver knew the man was on the car, which had its top down. “How can you explain the guy going the wrong way?” Mr. Machado said.

Asked if the driver was trying to knock the person off his car by striking objects, Sgt. Burrows replied: “No idea at this point in time.”

The death meant that the Homicide Squad was called in, but as of 5 a.m., the case was still in the hands of Traffic Services, considered the city's 23rd road fatality of the year. “Homicide was notified because of the fact there's a death involved. This appears to be more than just a traffic accident,” Sgt. Burrows said. “Right now, it's classified as ours (Traffic Services, not the Homicide Squad). If anything comes out of the investigation, that could change.”

Investigators are sifting through extensive security camera footage from the retail strip but still appealed for witnesses to come forward.

“Right off the top, we do know there were a lot of people involved who were in the area at the time. We've seen that on surveillance footage,” Sgt. Burrows said.

During Bloor's nine-hour closure -- the street re-opened around 7:30 a.m. -- officers scoured Bloor Street. Evidence markers suggested the altercation began in the northernmost, westbound curb lane in front of United Colours of Benetton, before swerving across two middle lanes that were closed for construction and continuing west in the southernmost, eastbound lane.

“Different decisions on either part would have led to such different outcomes,” one collision reconstruction unit officer said. “It's just so bizarre.”

Before Mr. Bryant's identity was revealed, Sgt. Burrows said the driver was facing a fail-to-remain charge and a dangerous driving charge, as well as an investigation into the circumstances of the crash. That investigation is still in the early stages.

Mr. Bryant served as Ontario's attorney general and a high profile cabinet minister to Premier Dalton McGuinty. He left politics earlier this year to take control of Invest Toronto, meant to attract business investment to the Toronto area.