Cyclist may have grabbed Bryant, wheel: police

Toronto police are investigating whether a cyclist killed in an altercation with a car driven by former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant grabbed the driver or the steering wheel.

Police had encounter with cyclist before fatal incident on downtown Toronto street

Darcy Allan Sheppard, 33, was killed Monday night in Toronto. ((Facebook))
Toronto police are investigating whether a cyclist killed in an altercation with a car driven by former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant grabbed the driver or the steering wheel.

Police have seized a number of video surveillance tapes from the stretch of Bloor Street where the confrontation occurred and are examining them frame-by-frame to confirm the accuracy of witness accounts that have suggested the cyclist may have been trying to get Bryant into a headlock and that the two may have been wrestling for control of the wheel.

"We're looking at avenues from the point of reaching into the vehicle pointing at the person, reaching in to maybe unlock the door, hanging on, standing there. We're looking at all those angles," Toronto Const. Hugh Smith told CBC News.

Bryant, 43, who resigned Wednesday as CEO of Invest Toronto, is facing two charges, including criminal negligence causing death. In a prepared statement, the man once tipped by many to succeed Dalton McGuinty as premier said he is innocent.

In a move to avoid suggestions it might interfere in the handling of the case, the Ontario government has gone outside the province for a prosecutor.

The Ministry of the Attorney General is bringing in Richard Peck, a Vancouver criminal lawyer who has handled some very high-profile cases, to be an independent counsel to prosecute the case.

Peck was the lead counsel for accused Air India bomber Ajaib Singh Bagri, who was acquitted in 2005. He also defended John Robin Sharpe in a challenge to parts of the national child pornography laws.

TIMELINE: Michael Bryant

Monday 9:45 p.m.: Michael Bryant becomes involved in an alleged altercation with cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard, 33, while driving his Saab convertible on downtown Toronto's Bloor Street. Police say Sheppard then grabbed on to the side of Bryant's car as it drove off, fell and suffered fatal injuries.

Monday 11:30 p.m.: Bryant is taken into police custody.

Tuesday 2:20 p.m.: In a statement to reporters, Bryant expresses his "deepest condolences" to Sheppard's family but declines to discuss the incident and asks for his privacy. He also thanks those who contacted his family to offer their support.

Tuesday 2:30 p.m.: Bryant is charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death.

Wednesday 1:10 p.m.: Toronto Mayor David Miller accepts Bryant's resignation as CEO of Invest Toronto, the city's business development agency.

Police also confirmed on Wednesday that Darcy Allan Sheppard, a 33-year-old bike courier, had an encounter with Toronto police hours before he died.

Sheppard died Monday night after sustaining severe injuries following a confrontation with Bryant. It now appears Sheppard — known as "Al" to his friends — was involved in a dispute with his former girlfriend earlier Monday and police intervention was required.

Officers had been called to the scene of a domestic dispute on George Street, near Jarvis and Gerrard streets, Monday afternoon, police said.

"I guess you could say it was concerns of a noise complaint or a domestic dispute. When police arrived on scene, they investigated. There was no indication a criminal offence took place," Staff Sgt. Kevin Guest.

"At least one of the parties had been drinking, but was able to take care of himself and was released from the scene."

Sheppard's ex, Misty Bailey, said Sheppard was drunk when he came to see her. She would have allowed him to stay, but police arrived on scene and sent him away. 

"I would have rather him stayed, but he wanted to leave, and I couldn't very well force him to be here if he didn't want to," she said.

Alcohol possibly involved

One of Sheppard's friends, courier Ron Berard, said he'd been with Sheppard an hour before he died. Berard said he'd spent the day with Sheppard's former girlfriend at her apartment.

Sheppard had been drinking, but wasn't drunk, Berard said.

"He might have had one. It didn't constitute any unruly behaviour," Berard said.

"It didn't ignite anything negative on his part."

Police would not comment on whether Sheppard was intoxicated because they're waiting for toxicology reports.

In an interview with The Canadian Press from Hinton, Alta., Jodie Schlender, who is the mother of one of Sheppard's four children, said they talked on Sunday about Sheppard's problems with alcohol. Schlender and Sheppard split up in 2004; their son is five years old.

"[Sheppard] said he just realized he needed help and he was going to get it," Schlender said. "He was going to get well."

Cyclist left his bike

Former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant speaks to reporters Tuesday after being charged with criminal negligence causing death. He has since resigned as CEO of Invest Toronto. ((Mike Cassese/Reuters))
Bryant is said to have been dining at a restaurant with his wife, entertainment lawyer Susan Abramovitch, around the same time. The altercation occurred around 9:45 p.m., while they were driving  home.

Police said they believe the incident was likely sparked by a minor collision in which it appears Sheppard's bike was damaged.

Witnesses reported that Sheppard left his bike after the collision and somehow hung on to Bryant's car. Bryant allegedly yelled at Sheppard to get off the car as it moved along Bloor Street.

Police said Sheppard sustained severe injuries after striking a mailbox and a tree while still hanging on to the car. The courier, who grew up in Edmonton, died later that night in hospital.

Investigators continue to review tapes and talk to witnesses as they come forward.

Toronto Sgt. Tim Burrows said Bryant had not been drinking. After spending a night in jail, Bryant was released under unspecified conditions on his own recognizance pending a court appearance Oct. 19.

With files from The Canadian Press