Thursday, May 27, 2010

Michael Bryant - Darcy Sheppard Incident Follow-up


I was out of town on Tuesday, so I missed this bit of news. Seems the charges against former Attorney General Michael Bryant were dropped when the prosecution decided it had no reasonable chance of conviction.

See, back in September of aught-nine, I posted this. It got the most comments, I think, of anything I've posted on this blog. I was trying to make the point that everyone should take a deep breath and wait for the facts to come out before passing judgement (not just in this case, but in all cases) and holding pro-cyclist/anti-car sit-ins. Seems some folks missed that message, though, and accused me of supporting Bryant and being a car-loving douchebag.

Although I'm sure many will doubt the story (I have my own questions), it seems that some facts have indeed come to light that helped get Bryant off the hook. You can catch most of the story here, but here are some highlights:

- Sheppard was drunk. He had a blood alcohol of 0.183, over twice the legal driving limit (not sure how that limit applies to impaired cycling).

- He had been acting somewhat oddly (to be kind) moments before the incident, throwing traffic cones and junk onto the street and doing figure eights in front of a car.

- He cut in front of Bryant's car at a light, passing on the driver's side.

- Bryant did not, as the video suggested to many, deliberately lurch at and then strike Sheppard with his car, but rather this sequence was the result of the car stalling and Bryant nervously attempting to restart it. (Bryant should have realized the danger when the car lurched the first time, but, hey, I didn't interview the witnesses.)

- The car did not speed off at a rate of 60-100 km/h, but rather hit about 35 km/h.

- Sheppard struck Bryant in the forehead as Bryant drove in a panic.

- Forensic evidence proves Bryant did not mount or touch the curb at all (as some had suggested, in an effort to squish Sheppard like a bug) but rather Sheppard's outstretched body struck a fire hydrant no more than a foot from the curb and caused him to fall off, strike his head on the curb or roadway and suffer fatal injuries.

- Sheppard had a history of outrageous behaviour involving vehicles, including one caught on camera that shows that Sheppard also had a history of latching onto cars. The story is here.

As for all the other stuff regarding violence earlier in the evening, it seems that was neither proven nor dismissed.

The bottom line is that Sheppard's own father accepts the decision and applauded the thoroughness of the investigation.

Did Bryant err that evening? Obviously. He apparently couldn't get this car started and then tried to do so in a not-so-safe manner. But the story goes that he panicked. Was Sheppard justified in being pissed at what appeared to be a reckless if not aggressive act? Of course. Was Bryant equally justified in fearing for his safety and that of his wife in the face of Sheppard's reaction? I'd say so. Was this an example of human failures and unusual circumstances coming together with tragic consequences? You bet your ass.

Is this the rallying cry for cycling advocates? Not on your life. People who want to see more bike lanes should be distancing themselves from "troubled" folk like Sheppard. "Bad month" or not, this was not the poster-boy for bikes in the city.

I'm hoping that now that the facts are out, people will make their arguments in a more intelligent manner, rather than simply jumping to conclusions and breaking out the pitchforks and torches, all the while lauding Sheppard as an angel.

That's the end of this post. Bike lanes will be another post - just as it should be.

1 comment:

Michelle Sullivan said...

Aught-nine hmm? How charmingly old-fashioned of you. No wonder we love you.

As for the rest of this sad story .. it's just sad. Sad that someone (no matter their real or perceived faults) lost their life in such a senseless way (through their own fault or not). And sad that a man involved in the 'incident' panicked on so many levels, including leaving the scene.

There's a problem when the former Attorney General of your province doesn't follow the law à la lettre. How can *all* charges be dropped? I'm following this story online, from another province, so correct me if I'm wrong, but My God. Wasn't he at least charged with that?