As It Happens

'I never gave up' Aaron Driver's dad mourns radicalized son, killed in police standoff

Wayne Driver had feared it would come to this, but it still came as a shock. He learned Thursday that his radicalized son, Aaron Driver, was killed the day before in a police standoff with RCMP. Police learned he was planning an 'imminent' attack and had pledged allegiance to ISIS.
Aaron Driver, 24, was killed in a police standoff in Strathroy, Ont. Wednesday. RCMP learned he had been planning an 'imminent' attack on an urban centre, and had pledged allegiance to ISIS. His father Wayne Driver (right), was deeply saddened by the news, and had tried to seek help for his son in recent years. (PROVIDED)
Listen12:10

An intense police standoff took place in Strathroy, Ont. Wednesday afternoon. It involved a 24-year-old man by the name of Aaron Driver, inside a taxicab. He was surrounded by police, and eventually a bomb was detonated inside the cab. Aaron Driver was killed in the standoff.

The aftermath of an explosion inside of a taxi that Aaron Driver entered after leaving a house in Strathroy, Ont. RCMP confronted Driver as he fled the house into the back seat of a waiting taxi, where an improvised explosive device suddenly detonated, injuring the cab driver. (RCMP/Canadian Press)

On Thursday, RCMP told reporters at a press conference that Driver had been planning an "imminent" attack in an urban centre. They also say he had pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State. 

They were able to determine this information, due in part to a disturbing video Driver had released this week. The FBI spotted the video, and reportedly tipped off the RCMP.

Wayne Driver is Aaron's father. He had been trying to help Aaron in the months and years preceding his death -- but their relationship had deteriorated. As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch spoke to Driver on Thursday afternoon. Below is part of their conversation.

Laura Lynch: Wayne Driver, my condolences. How are you feeling today?

Wayne Driver: I'm not doing very well. I'm still shocked and of course quite saddened that my son is gone. The initial reaction was shock, and then the reality set in, and in one respect it didn't really surprise me. I was very surprised they released him on a peace bond — knowing everything they had on him.

Video footage showing Aaron Driver is seen behind RCMP Deputy Commissioner Mike Cabana (left) and Assistant Commissioner Jennifer Strachan during a press conference for what the RCMP are calling a terrorism incident, in Strathroy, Ontario yesterday, on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016 in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

LL: When was the last time you spoke to Aaron?

WD: About a month ago. I phoned him up to see how he was doing, and he hung up the phone on me. [The call] lasted maybe 10 seconds, as soon as he found out it was me.

LL: That must have been tough.

WD: Yeah. It's been a tough relationship. And it's gotten worse the last couple of years. He wouldn't answer my emails. He unfriended me on Facebook. He wouldn't take my phone calls.

Aaron Driver leaves the Law Courts in Winnipeg, Tuesday, February 2, 2016. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

LL: The peace bond — why were you so concerned about him being given that?

WD: I was hoping it would force him into some kind of counselling, to help turn him around. But when that didn't happen, I could just see things going from bad to worse. He was very withdrawn, always alone. He wouldn't socialize with us, even when he did live with us. He was very secretive. And we could hear the different chants and prayers, and some of the podcasts that he was listening to. But he wouldn't talk to us about it at all, it was basically none of our business.

A police responded to what they called a 'potential terrorist threat' in the small southern Ontario town of Strathroy. Aaron Driver, 24, who had been under a peace bond for openly supporting ISIS on social media was killed by police. Here, a view from the window of a neighbour of Aaron Driver. (Submitted by Rob Campbell-Pereira)

LL: But you had a feeling that if he didn't get help, he was going to go from bad to worse — and do what? What were you thinking he might do?

WD: Well, something like what just went down. When [Nathan Cirillo] was shot on Parliament Hill, [Aaron's] opinion was, 'Well, he deserved it.' And if he had that type of opinion — well, my fears came to light. And that's what I was always afraid of — that he was going to perhaps get involved with someone and strap a bomb to himself or plant a bomb somewhere else.

Neighbours say Aaron Driver mostly kept to himself 0:48

LL: When CBC spoke to Aaron's former lawyer, Leonard Tailleur, he said he was absolutely shocked by this news and that Aaron was "low-risk." Why would you two seem to have such a difference of opinion?

WD: Because he didn't live with Aaron. Aaron can talk a good talk. He's a sweetheart. He's very bright, very intelligent. He can talk himself into things and out of things. 

LL: There must be such desperation for you as a father, trying to help your son, and not having it work.

WD: One can only be turned down so many times. You keep trying, and you get turned down. So you leave him alone, give him his privacy for a while. It gets to a point where you don't give up, you just sort of back off. I even tried last month, just to have a casual conversation with him. And look where that got me.

Fourteen-year-old Aaron Driver is shown in this photograph. (Facebook)

LL: If Aaron had not hung up on you the last time you tried to speak to him — what would you have said to him?

WD: I just wanted him to know that we were here for him when he was ready. I wanted him to know he was still loved. And that he could seek some kind of help, because we know he was hurting inside. We know he had to have been hurting still, to be going on the way he was going. If he wasn't screaming out for help, I don't know what he was doing.

To hear more of our conversation with Wayne Driver, father of Aaron Driver, listen to our full interview.

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