Toronto policeman killed by stolen snowplow
Shoeless suspect in hospital with gunshot injuries
An 11-year veteran of the Toronto police department died in hospital Wednesday after being struck by a stolen truck equipped with a snowplow.
The truck's driver, described as shoeless, was shot during his arrest and taken to hospital.
Sgt. Ryan Russell, 35, was married with a young child, police Chief Bill Blair told reporters. Russell had served with the guns and gangs unit before being promoted to sergeant six months ago. His father was a retired officer with the force, Blair said.
"He was out doing his job in the early-morning hours, in the city, [in] a very dangerous situation, and … put his life on the line, and tragically has lost his life doing his job," Blair said outside St. Michael's Hospital. "This is the worst of days for the Toronto Police Service."
The truck struck Russell in the Avenue Road and Davenport Road area around 6:10 a.m. He suffered head injuries and was taken to the downtown hospital, where he died.
After Russell was struck, the alleged truck thief continued driving erratically through the snow-covered city, striking several parked cars and making a number of U-turns on Bloor Street West, said CBC camera operator Tony Smyth, who pursued the truck at a slow speed along with an unmarked police car.
The owner of the company that the tow truck was registered to also followed the stolen truck along with police. Peter Tolias said that a GPS device installed in the stolen truck enabled him to pinpoint exactly where it was located. He passed that information on to police as he joined in the pursuit.
At one point, Tolias said, the stolen truck drove past his vehicle, and he tried to ram it.
"I wasn't thinking. I was just thinking, you know what, I want to try to stop him. I wish I would have hit him … but I just missed him," he said.
"It's like a bad nightmare, and I'm just hoping I'm going to wake up. But I'm awake, unfortunately, and Toronto lost one of their finest today and it's a really sad day for Toronto."
The truck travelled along Bloor and north on Dundas Street West. The truck then headed up Keele Street, at which point heavily armed Emergency Task Force officers joined the pursuit.
"My car was right in the middle of it," said Paolo Miele, who was driving on Keele Street. The stolen truck headed toward his Acura and Miele said he swerved to the right to try to avoid it, but the truck hit his car on the right passenger door.
The truck struck a City of Toronto garbage truck near Humberside Avenue at around 7:20 a.m.
At that point, the heavily armed officers moved in and confronted the man. "And then by then the cops were already pushing me down the sidewalk, telling me to get out of the area," Miele said. He said he heard "eight or nine" gunshots.
Blair said the truck driver was injured and taken into custody. The province's Special Investigations Unit, which is called in whenever a civilian has been seriously hurt or killed in an interaction with police, is investigating and said the driver was shot. They have assigned 12 investigators and four forensic investigators to the case.
A second officer was also injured during the arrest. Smyth witnessed an ETF officer limping to a nearby van, with fellow officers helping him along. He and the suspect were both taken to St. Michael's Hospital.
The stolen truck was the property of Tolias Landscaping and Plowing. The company's general manager, Richard Eros, told CBC News an operator had been working with the plow in the Regent Park area near Parliament and Dundas streets.
The operator told Eros he was doing some shovelling by hand beside the empty truck when a man with no shoes jumped into it and drove off.
The suspect has undergone surgery at St. Michael's hospital and is intensive care. Police have not released any information on the identity of the man.