Bryant memoir comments spark police backlash
Toronto officers reject suggestion they were out to 'build a case' against ex-politician
Michael Bryant's suggestion that police wilfully mishandled the investigation into his involvement in the death of a Toronto cyclist has sparked an angry backlash from officers.
Bryant has released a new book called 28 Seconds: A True Story of Addiction, Injustice and Tragedy, which details the events that led to the death of bike courier Darcy Allan Sheppard three years ago.
During an interview with CBC's Amanda Lang about the memoir, the former attorney general for Ontario said it appeared that the work of police officers following the Aug. 31, 2009, incident "didn’t seem like an investigation."
"It wasn't, 'OK, I'm going to put the pieces of the puzzle together,'" Bryant said. "It was, 'No, no. We're going to make a picture and we're going to find the puzzle pieces and we're going to jam them together because this person, we need to build a case against him.'"
Mark Pugash, director of communications for the Toronto Police Service, said investigators were stunned by his comments. "The allegations simply don't stand up," he said.
Some in the force said Bryant's comments appeared designed to generate interest in his memoir.
Pugash said any suggestion of bias during the investigation would have been attacked by defence attorneys.
"Given the quality and aggressiveness of his lawyers, if there had been the slightest misstep they would have been all over it," Pugash said. "They would have been screaming."
Bryant has said that Sheppard appeared intoxicated and agitated on Aug. 31, 2009, and that he eventually jumped onto his convertible.
As Bryant drove away with Sheppard on the side of his car, Sheppard struck a fire hydrant and fell to the street suffering fatal injuries.
Bryant pulled into a nearby hotel, called police and was arrested shortly afterwards.
Bryant was originally charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death but those charges were dropped in May 2010 by prosecutors who said there was no chance for a conviction.
Authorities discovered that Sheppard had been involved in a number of similar situations beforehand, including one on the same day.
‘Entitled to some skepticism’
The father of Sheppard, meanwhile, criticized both the media and prosecutors for too easily accepting Bryant's version of events.
Allan Sheppard says neither showed the proper level of "skepticism" following the incident which resulted in the death of his 33-year-old son.
"I don't think that's justice, if I may put it that way," he told CBC News on Tuesday, adding that he doesn't think Bryant is "guilty of anything."
Sheppard said the vast majority of the media focused on information presented by the defence, including his son's troubled past involving problems with alcohol and drugs. He also criticized Richard Peck, a prosecutor who was brought in from British Columbia to handle the case, for accepting what he said was the defence's version of events.
"It is Mr. Bryant's explanation that's been put on record, which he's now expanding on in his book and he is entitled to do that," Sheppard said. "I just think my son was entitled to some skepticism."
Although Sheppard criticized the media and prosecutors, he said he wouldn't call the outcome the "wrong decision."
A chance to speak out
Bryant said he was shocked when he learned that Sheppard had died.
"When I found out he died … that was the worst," Bryant said during the interview with Lang about the release of 28 Seconds, which also details publicly for the first time his own struggles with alcoholism.
Bryant has said he only drank an iced tea on Aug. 31, 2009.
However, Allan Sheppard said Bryant's admission that he struggled previously with alcoholism "pokes a finger in the eye of police" who did not ask him to take a breathalyzer.
Sheppard also said he was glad for the chance to speak out because Bryant has had ample chance to put his story on the public record.
"My son has had no opportunity to do it himself," he said.
New book is 'self-justification'
Sheppard also said he was pleased to offer a different perspective because "almost everything that Mr. Bryant has said is self-serving." Although he has only read excerpts of the book, published by Viking Canada, he called it an "act of self-justification" not contrition.
The former attorney general has said that his new memoir is "an offering" to help those who are facing the criminal justice system.
"It's meant to share lessons learned from an attorney general who was charged with killing someone and the perspective that comes with that," he said.
Sheppard said he planned to gather with some of his son's friends for a memorial to mark the third year of the incident later this month. The group would meet where his son died before heading to the provincial legislature.
Sheppard said everything Bryant has recounted may be the truth but his story was never given under oath and was not cross-examined in a court of law.
"I'm not accusing him of anything inappropriate, I'm accusing the media and the prosecutors of not asking some hard questions about what he said," Sheppard explained. "But taking it as if it were gospel truth."