Questions raised about police response to stolen car hit and run
Moe Al-Kaissy gripped the hood of a car stolen from his family's dealership last week
It's been a week since Moe Al-Kaissy clung to the hood of a BMW speeding down Oxford Street, afraid he was going to die after the vehicle hit him when it was stolen off the lot of his family's car dealership and careened through traffic.
No arrests have been made, and as far as the family knows, the car has not been recovered. That's raising questions about the police's response and if releasing information to the public sooner could have made a difference.
"These guys could have been caught. We called 911 right away, we knew they were headed for the 401, they could have had them," said Mustafa Al-Kaissy, Moe's older brother, who also works at the Sport Motors auto dealership where the incident took place.
"It's just so disappointing, you hear stories of people getting pulled over for the stupidest reasons and these guys made it all the way down the highway."
London police say the investigation is still active and that investigators continue their work.
"The London Police Service is committed to solving this case and bringing those responsible before the courts," said Const. Sandasha Bough.
Last Wednesday, March 3, Moe Al-Kaissy went to the dealership at 1080 Oxford Street to show a vehicle to a prospective buyer. The buyer and a friend arrived in a silver Audi and asked to look at a BMW M4. After asking to sit inside the car to make a phone call, the potential buyer took off, hitting Al-Kaissy, forcing him onto the hood of the car.
The BMW, with the Audi close behind, sped east on Oxford St., running a red light and weaving in and out of oncoming traffic. When the car turned onto Highbury Avenue and slowed down, Al-Kaissy let go and fell off the car. He immediately called 911.
A Good Samaritan pulled over and drove Al-Kaissy back to the dealership, where he and his brother provided police with descriptions and video footage of the robbery.
Four day delay
But police didn't tell the public about the brazen daylight robbery and hit-and-run until Monday afternoon, four days later, after Mustafa Al-Kaissy had collected surveillance footage from nearby businesses and cut it into a video, posting it to the dealership's Facebook page on Sunday morning.
The video of his brother's death-defying ride on that hood has been shared thousands of times and news outlets as far away as England and Japan have covered the story.
The public can be key to solving cases and people are increasingly trying to conduct their own investigations, which can hamper police, said Mike Arnfield, a former London police officer and criminology professor who analyzes unsolved crimes.
"This is obviously a very serious investigation but no two investigations progress the same way," Arntfiled said. "Given the availability of digital resources to members of the public, and the ability to conduct their own freelance investigations, this is an increasingly topical issue where victims want investigations expedited and they will, usually in good faith, take steps to try to assist the police."
What they don't realize, said Arnfield, is how they might be getting in the way of justice.
"At the same time, what doesn't dawn on civilians, including victims, is that at any given time there is an array of investigative techniques, often covert techniques, that are under way that public engagement and immediate media coverage may compromise."
Public can be helpful
Police often use media outlets to alert people to be on the lookout for suspects or vehicles, as in the case of Amber Alerts.
Reaching as many people as possible to catch suspects can be extremely helpful, said Romayne Smith Fullerton, a researcher at Western University's Western's Faculty of Information and Media Studies and author of Murder in Our Midst: Comparing Crime Coverage Ethics in an Age of Globalized News.
"The cops could have put out a press release as soon as they got the report, they had footage, they could've used people who might have seen the car. Why not put it out within a couple hours of it happening?" Smith Fullerton said.
It's also important that police answer questions about why they waited so long, she added.
"Part of the job of mainstream journalism is to keep an eye on the police, to make sure that they're to be a watchdog for the watchdogs. It's really helpful when journalists can point out inconsistencies or sometimes inadequacies, when they can amplify the public voices and say, "'Hey, why is this happening like this?'"
The Al-Kaissy family has been told by investigators that a GPS locator last picked up the car somewhere in North York.
"We don't care about the car, obviously. We just want these guys to be found because we don't want this to happen to other dealerships," said Mo Al-Kaissy.
They also feel it took a long time — 35 minutes — for an ambulance to arrive, and are in the process of requesting transcripts of their 911 call.
Paramedic officials say they are satisfied with their response times, which they say met the provincial standard of under 12 minutes for an urgent call.