Mess Media, September 2, 2009
Former Ontario attorney-general Michael Bryant was charged Tuesday with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death in relation to the violent road rage death of bike messenger Darcy Allan (AL) Sheppard after a traffic altercation on August 31.
It was a senseless and tragic event that in a few short moments altered the lives of many, leaving one young man dead.
Michael Bryant was a high-profile, Harvard educated politician with many victories in his once promising career. He followed his father’s footsteps in to politics, with greater ambition to rise higher. He was at one time, Ontario’s youngest attorney-general, a rising star, often mentioned as a future premier of Ontario.
However he was also often described as brash and in-your-face, a self-promoter with high ambitions, “someone who would have caused some gnashing of teeth in the premier’s office because we would say things that would be controversial.” He wasn’t someone who gave careful thought to his words or actions.
The Globe and Mail reports that many Bryant aides and volunteers “were turned off by a perceived shallowness and a sense he would tell people whatever they wanted to hear. His loyalty sometimes extended only so long as supporters were useful to him.”
Bryant often clashed with the Premiers’ office. He sought the limelight with press conferences and headline grabbing behaviour. After Premier Dalton McGuinty was re-elected in 2007, Bryant was demoted to become minister of aboriginal affairs. His rising star was falling. He quit the government and politics in May of this year, in what was observed to be a public falling out with the Liberals and McGuinty.
He landed at the modest, Invest Toronto, an agency owned and operated by the City of Toronto with a mandate to attract investment to the city. The Toronto Star reports that “in July he seemed a bit of a nomad, wandering the city seeking business contacts, knocking on doors, without the car-and-driver supports of a cabinet minister.”
Out of the spotlight, with his political career on hold Bryant did what many middle-aged men in mid-life do. He bought himself a convertible sports car. He had lost prestige, power and even his ambitions suffered a critical blow. He bragged about the freedom outside of government. “When you get out there’s this liberation. You don’t realize what it’s going to feel like until you get out. You can say, `you guys have no idea what you’re talking about.'” You can “give the bird to a neighbour who’s cut you off, because you might want to put a sign in their lawn.”
On August 31, around 9:45 pm Bryant was driving his sports car along Bloor Street. Finding himself behind a cyclist, Bryant reportedly grew impatient. Witnesses report an angry Bryant honked his horn and shouted at Sheppard to get moving. Unsatisfied with Sheppard’s response, Bryant edged forward intentionally hitting Sheppard’s bike, perhaps to teach him a lesson or show him who is in control. Sheppard then allegedly dismounted his bike and walked over to confront the shouting Bryant.
As the confrontation escalated, Sheppard grabbed hold of the door or mirror of Bryant’s car and Bryant sped off, tires squealing, with Sheppard holding on for his life as Bryant dragged him through the street.
Construction workers reported Bryant veering his car into oncoming traffic and mounting the sidewalk several times in an attempt to throw Sheppard off the car at high speeds.
One of the workers said Bryant was “yelling pretty loud and he sounded very, very angry.” The other worker said, “He meant to knock him off.”
Another witness said, “The driver was going so fast that at one point the biker was holding on to his car and there were sparks coming from the bottom of his shoes.”
Bryant reportedly smashed into trees and a mailbox in a final attempt to get rid of Sheppard.
“It seemed like the driver was trying to shake him off because he turned really suddenly, put on the brakes, jetted it one last time and then all your hear is three thumps and then the guy falls on the floor.”
After Sheppard fell to the ground, witnesses report that Bryant ran over him with the back wheels of his sports car. Sheppard lay bleeding from the head and mouth as Bryant raced away to a local luxury hotel. Sheppard died shortly after arriving at the St. Michael’s Hospital.
Within hours Bryant had not only hired a lawyer but also a public relations firm, Navigator Ltd. to help him craft his condolence message and help to create and control the spin.
Many people are left wondering how a promising, former attorney general, could exhibit such out of control rage that resulted in the death of a man he never met before. But this kind of road rage is all too common. Last year, Sergeant Cam Woolley, of the Ontario Provincial Police remarked “What’s interesting is road ragers tend to have above-average income and above-average education … they’re often middle-class people with responsible jobs.”
No matter what the explanation the result is unchanged, a young father of four is dead.