Michael Bryant charged in cyclist's death

Darcy Allan Sheppard, 34, was a bike courier, father and amateur stand-up comedian, friends said.
Sep 01, 2009 02:48 PM
Henry Stancu, Robyn Doolittle, John Rieti, Nicole Baute
Staff Reporters

Former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant has been charged with criminal negligence causing death after a 34-year-old cyclist was struck and killed last night.

Bryant was also charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death.

Bryant, 43, made a brief statement to the media this afternoon.

"I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Sheppard," he said.

Friends identified the victim as bicycle courier Darcy Allan Sheppard. His friends called him Al and said he was the father of at least one child.

Bryant also said he would not immediately be speaking about what happened last night. "To all those who have offered support to my family over the past 12 hours thank you. May I ask that the media continue to respect my family's need for distance and privacy... for the next few days," he said.

Sheppard was likely heading to his new home in the Dupont and Dufferin Sts. area at the time of the incident, friends said.

They said Sheppard had just got back together with his on-again-off-again girlfriend, Misty, and had said he wanted to marry her.

"Things were starting to go well for him right around now. Stuff was looking good for him," said 24-year-old Sana, who did not want to give her last name.

Witnesses on Bloor St. last night described a heated confrontation between the driver of a black Saab convertible and a cyclist that began near Bloor and Bay Sts.

Burrows would not confirm reports the cyclist jumped on the car after a collision around 9:45 p.m. on Bloor St., just west of St. Thomas St., and began fighting with the driver.

Witnesses said the westbound vehicle was driving on the wrong side of the road and up onto the curb trying to knock the cyclist off for about 100 metres.

Witnesses said the cyclist hung onto the driver's side of the car, which had its convertible top down, while the driver allegedly yelled at him to get off.

The vehicle veered into the eastbound lanes and mounted the curb, brushing against trees and poles. The victim was apparently run over by the rear wheels of the vehicle, witnesses said.

"Lots of people were watching and they couldn't believe what was happening," said Ryan Brazeau, a worker with a crew laying sewer pipes on Bloor.

One construction worker told CTV News he heard the squeal of tires and saw the car racing the wrong way down the street past their construction site, with the cyclist hanging onto the car.

"The guy hanging onto the car, hit the mailbox, hit the road, (then) . . . the car ran over him with the back tires," the witness said. "The guy bounced and the car sped off . . . the person was there just bleeding."

The witness said he felt sick to his stomach when he saw the cyclist "bleeding from his head, his mouth."

Sheppard was taken to St. Michael's Hospital with serious head injuries and died around midnight.

Burrows said a large portion of the incident was captured on surveillance video and that investigators are working to fill in the gaps.

Police said alcohol was not involved.

"What we do know at this point in time is there was an altercation that occurred last night on Bloor St.," Burrows said this morning in an appeal for witnesses to come forward.

"Anybody who was on Bloor St. last night between twenty after nine and ten to ten, anywhere between Church St. and Avenue Rd. that saw, heard, or believed that something was out of the ordinary, any little piece of information is going to help fill in some of the gaps we have in the investigation."

Around 9 a.m. two of Sheppard's friends sat on the sidewalk scrawling notes for their friend, which they taped to a tree.

"He had a rough go," Will Pierson, 26, said. "And just this last week he had kind of turned his place around and all these things were starting to look up for him and that's why it's such a f-ing tragedy."

Pierson said he saw a bike on the news on TV this morning and recognized the wheel set as Sheppard's. He and Sana went to find him afterward at his home, but no one answered.

A friend called at that time and told them the news, Sana said.

The last time Pierson saw Sheppard was yesterday morning and they had chatted about guitar amps.

He and Sana were supposed to swing by Sheppard's house after work yesterday, but no one answered when they got there.

"He was totally getting his life back on track, which is the part that makes it really, really hard to deal with," Pierson said.

He figures half the couriers in Toronto will be mourning today.

Friends also said Sheppard was an amateur stand-up comedian who sometimes performed at open mike nights at local clubs.

Friends planned to return to the spot where Sheppard died and lay down a "ghost bike" in his memory.

Bryant has reportedly been in contact with a lawyer. Around 12:50 p.m., lawyer Andrew Evangelista arrived at Traffic Services in a black Cadillac, saying he was visiting Bryant as counsel and as a friend.

Bryant was first elected MPP for St. Paul's in 1999 and won re-election in 2003 and 2007. He was awarded Now Magazine's Best Toronto MPP for 2008.

Residents on a small street in the St. Paul's riding said they were shocked to hear about the alleged incident.

"I just saw the headline," said one man, who asked not to be named.

"He's a busy guy, we don't see him around very much."

When a Star reporter visited Bryant's two-storey Victorian home on Foxbar Rd., at the intersection of St. Clair W. and Avenue Rd., a woman closed the curtains. She could then be seen in the window talking on the phone while two children played.

Bryant was Ontario's youngest-ever attorney general, serving throughout the McGuinty government's first four-year term.

Bryant legalized paralegals, fixed election dates, banned pit bulls, overhauled the human rights system, re-created the Law Reform Commission, re-established civilian oversight of police and depoliticized Justice of the Peace appointments.

Bryant, who also served as aboriginal affairs minister, stepped down as Ontario's economic development minister in May to become president and CEO of the new Invest Toronto corporation chaired by Mayor David Miller.

In a statement issued this morning, Miller expressed "sincere condolences to the family and friends of the cyclist who died last night following an incident in the Yorkville area."

But citing the ongoing police investigation, he declined to comment further.

Bryant's former boss, Premier Dalton McGuinty, also reacted to news of the accident at a press conference this morning calling it "very sad, very tragic.

"My thoughts are with the family and friends of the gentleman who lost his life," he said.

McGuinty stayed away from answering questions as to how Bryant should be treated in court, given his former ministerial position with the Attorney General.

"With respect to the case itself, I think the best thing to do is let the investigation unfold," said McGuinty. "I have confidence that anyone who comes before Ontario courts will be treated with due process."

With files from Daniel Dale, Jesse McLean and Noor Javed