Ontario police officer's funeral set for Tuesday

The funeral for Const. Garrett Styles, the Ontario police officer who was dragged and pinned by a minivan allegedly driven by an unlicensed teenaged driver, will be held Tuesday in Newmarket north of Toronto.
Garrett Styles became a constable in May 2004, following in the footsteps of his father, Garry Styles, who was a staff sergeant when he retired in January. (York Regional Police)

Police deaths involving vehicles

Since 2009, at least nine police officers countrywide, including Garrett Styles, have died in vehicle-related incidents.

  • Sgt. Ryan Russell, 35, of the Toronto police died after he was struck by a stolen truck equipped with a snowplow on Jan. 12, 2011.
  • Quebec provincial police Const. Sébastien Coghlan-Goyette, 25, and officer-in-training Sophie Rigas, 22, died of injuries suffered when their cruiser struck a deer and went out of control in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Que., on Nov. 14, 2010.
  • Const. Chelsey Alice Robinson, 25, of the RCMP's Stony Plain, Alta., detachment died after her cruiser was struck by a transport truck on June 21, 2010.
  • Const. Artem (James) Ochakovsky, 36, of Peel Regional Police in Ontario died of his injuries after his marked cruiser hit a lamppost following a collision on March 2, 2010.
  • Const. Mélanie Roy, 21, of the Lévis, Que., municipal police died in a traffic accident while responding to a call on Sept. 7, 2009.
  • Const. Alan Hack, 31, of the Ontario Provincial Police's Elgin County detachment died when a transport truck hit his cruiser on July 6, 2009.
  • Const. James Lundblad, 41, of the RCMP's traffic services unit in Camrose, Alta., was killed when his vehicle collided with a grain truck on the highway on May 5, 2009.
  • Det.-Const. Robert Plunkett of York Regional Police died when a man he was arresting put his car in reverse and pinned the officer against a tree in Markham, Ont., on Aug. 2, 2007.

Navigating the data 

Police officers' deaths in recent decades have been tracked by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

Their homicide survey (1961 to 2009) includes slayings that happened during traffic stops and other vehicle-related calls, but does not account for deaths caused by traffic accidents or criminal negligence. 

When considering homicides alone, police officers are almost always shot to death, with 23 per cent killed during robbery investigations.

Domestic disputes were the second most dangerous calls, accounting for 14 per cent of police deaths with spikes in the 1960s and 1970s. 

But in recent years, the number of police killed while pulling over vehicles has surpassed those killed during domestic disputes, according to Statistics Canada

The police funeral for Const. Garrett Styles, the Ontario police officer who was dragged and pinned by a minivan alleged to have been driven by an unlicensed teenaged driver, will be held Tuesday in Newmarket north of Toronto.

More than 6,000 officers from across North America are expected to attend the funeral, set for Tuesday at 1 p.m. at Ray Twinney Arena.

Visitation for Styles will be on Monday from 1 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Jerrett Funeral Home, located 8088 Yonge St. in Thornhill.

Styles died in hospital from injuries suffered after he stopped the 2005 Dodge Caravan on Highway 48 east of Newmarket early Tuesday.

York Regional Police believe Styles was at the driver's door when the vehicle suddenly accelerated, dragged him some 300 metres, and finally rolled over and pinned him.

People who never met Styles dropped off bouquets Tuesday at a memorial outside the York Regional Police's District 1 headquarters, where Styles worked. Many were tearful.

Christine Hill came because her family experienced a similar tragedy — her brother died working on an elevator two years ago in Toronto.

"Rough, you know, to go to work and do your job and do a good job and lose your life," she said.

Angela Forbes, who works at Southlake Regional Health Centre, where Styles died, fought back tears as she explained why she wanted to pay her respects.

"Well, my husband's in the Toronto police force and we have young children, and I just wanted to come by and give my condolences and whatever support I could," she said.

Styles is survived by his wife, Melissa, who is a civilian employee of the York Regional Police, and children Meredith, 2½, and nine-week-old Nolan.

The officer — whose father, Garry, retired from the York police in January after 33 years — had seven years of service with the force.

The younger Styles recently wrote an exam for eventual promotion to sergeant and passed with an 82 per cent average.

"His supervisors spoke of him as a dedicated, professional, hard-working officer who always had time to assist others," Chief Eric Jolliffe said Tuesday.

"He was well-liked among his peers and he loved being a police officer."

Trevor Finkle, who taught Styles at a high school in Newmarket, remembers his former student having "a smile that would light up the world."

"To me he was a kid that enjoyed life and … he carried himself so well. It's not a stretch to see him as a police officer from being a very young man."

15-year-old charged with first-degree murder

By Wednesday morning, hundreds of people had offered their condolences on a Facebook tribute page that was set up the previous day.

Also on Wednesday, police announced a first-degree murder charge against the 15-year-old who they allege was driving the car. He suffered massive head injuries when the van rolled over and remains in critical condition.

Police say Styles was dragged by the vehicle he'd stopped on this section of Highway 48, east of Newmarket, Ont., on Tuesday. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

Three passengers in the van that Styles stopped on Tuesday, also youths, are co-operating with police in their investigation, Jolliffe said.

Police have not said why Styles stopped the van.

He would have turned 33 on Sunday.

With files from The Canadian Press