TORONTO — Former high-profile Ontario cabinet minister Michael Bryant has been charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death after a cyclist was killed in an apparent altercation, police said Tuesday.
Bryant emerged from a night in police custody Tuesday to express condolences to the victim’s family in a brief statement outside a downtown police station.
He said he would make a fuller statement about “last night’s tragic events” at a later date, but added that for now, “I would, however, like to extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Sheppard.”
Police did not identify the victim, but a woman at Toronto’s Action Messenger says bike courier Darcy Allan Sheppard was killed Monday night in the incident.
Witness reports suggest Sheppard died after hanging onto a car following an altercation with a driver in the city’s tony Yorkville district just before 10 p.m.
Those who say they saw what happened said the 33-year-old cyclist was dragged by the car before falling and suffering fatal injuries.
Bryant, a colourful and outspoken public figure, was attorney general, aboriginal affairs minister and minister of economic development. As attorney general, the 43-year-old lawyer was responsible for strict laws against street racing and drunk driving.
Bryant left provincial politics earlier this year to accept a position with Invest Toronto, a new corporation whose mandate is to attract investment to the city.
Surveillance video links the suspect driver with the cyclist in two separate incidents but the video doesn’t tell the full story, said Sgt. Tim Burrows.
Burrows said Bryant called 911 and “was not in any way trying to evade or elude our investigation.”
He appears in court Oct. 19.
The tragic story captivated the biking community in Toronto, a city where tensions between cyclists and motorists are ever present.
“Ugly indeed,” read one comment posted to the chat forum BikingToronto.com.
“I’m reserving full judgment until more details come to light,” writes the blogger, posting under the name Scarr. “In any event, this should never have escalated to the point that it did.”
Premier Dalton McGuinty called the incident tragic but added the “best thing to do in the circumstance is to allow the investigation unfold.”
When asked how he felt given his personal relationship with Bryant, McGuinty said: “It’s just very sad.”
“It is very tragic how events that unfold inside a minute can have such a profound impact on people’s lives, negative impact.”
In a statement, Toronto Mayor David Miller, who is also chairman of Invest Toronto, expressed his “sincere condolences” to the family and friends of the cyclist.
“As this is an active police investigation, I will not be making any further comment on this tragedy today,” Miller said.
The incident took place on bustling Bloor Street between Bay Street and Avenue Road, a popular area of restaurants, hotels and high-end jewelry and clothing stores.
Tips from those who claim to have seen what happened were pouring in to police, and investigators said they would like to hear more.
“We will still take any calls from the public that can add to our investigation and help us out,” said Burrows.
“We have enough information to substantiate the charges that have been laid against Mr. Bryant at this time. But we will continue the investigation and will take any more information that the public can provide us.”