From Wesley McLean to Darcy Allan Sheppard – A Lesson 75 years in the making

October 1, 2009

The death of Toronto bike messenger Wesley McLean in 1934 has a lesson for the case against Michael Bryant

Mess Media, October 1, 2009

The tragic death of Toronto bike messenger, Darcy Allan Sheppard and the resulting charges faced by Michael Bryant highlights the risks cyclists endure on our roads and the challenge all road users cope with sharing our streets.

But this is not an unfamiliar situation for Toronto. Cyclists and motorists have confronted these challenges for at least a hundred years with little progress.

Seventy-five years ago, in 1934, another Toronto bike messenger was the victim of a selfish and negligent driver whose only concern was himself. Similarly to Michael Bryant, the killer from long ago employed advocates to construct a narrative that blamed the dead victim.

Downtown Toronto streets in the 1930’s were not much different than today. The glory days of cars from the 1950’s through the 1970’s were yet to come. Cyclists, pedestrians, motorists and streetcars shared the roads and cyclists were well represented in the mix.

The streets were filled with hundreds of bicycle messengers too. They worked for telegraph companies, courier companies, department stores and drug stores. In 1937, the Tamblyn Drug Store chain boasted of employing over 300 Toronto bicycle messengers in their drug stores alone.

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Couriers launch their own PR blitz over handling of cyclist’s traffic death

September 25, 2009

Globe and Mail, September 25, 2009

By Anthony Reinhart

In a bid to counter “damning” media portrayals of the cyclist killed in a collision with ex-politician Michael Bryant’s car last month, a bicycle couriers’ group is launching its own public relations effort today.

The Toronto Bike Messenger Association, officially silent since Darcy Allan Sheppard’s death on Aug. 31, is to break that silence at a 2 p.m. news conference organized by a small communications company working pro bono on its behalf.

The couriers’ use of a public relations adviser, albeit one from a modest outfit, is a response to Mr. Bryant’s having turned to Navigator Ltd., a high-end crisis management firm, in the hours after he was charged in Mr. Sheppard’s death.

The former Ontario attorney-general, accused of criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death, is to make his first court appearance Oct. 19.

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Bike couriers association calls press conference to counter negative media portrayal of “special friend” Darcy Allan Sheppard

September 23, 2009

From Wiedman Communications

Toronto – 230909 // The Toronto Bike Messenger Association (TOBMA) has called a press conference for this Friday at 2:00 pm. They want to speak ahead of their Saturday, September 26 evening memorial celebration to raise money for the children of Darcy Allan Sheppard, and help his family pay for his burial.

Since the cyclist lost his life in a high-profile accident with Michael Bryant on August 31, TOBMA has chosen to remain silent, making no “official statements” until emotions had calmed. In that time, major media including Maclean’s, Globe & Mail and the Toronto Star have featured articles damning the life, personality and background of their co-worker Al Sheppard.

Mark Hayward, Marli Epp and Brian Harris, Toronto Bike Messenger Association

1 – Official statement from TOBMA
2 – Remembering Darcy Allen Sheppard
3 – “Victim Impact Statements” from friends / co-workers, on the negative media spin on Al in the days following the accident.

Friday, September 25 – 2:00 pm to 2:30

Sneaky Dee’s, 431 College Street @ Bathurst

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The Evidentiary Narrative

September 20, 2009

By Mess Media, September 20, 2009

In our previous post we looked at the Navigator Narrative of the events that led to the killing of Darcy Allan Sheppard by Michael Bryant. In this post we look at the original narrative – the Evidentiary Narrative.

The Evidentiary Narrative emerged immediately after Sheppard’s death as it was witnessed by many people and filmed by security cameras.

The Globe and Mail reported that Toronto Police Traffic Services Sgt. Tim Burrows said

many witnesses had come forward and video from personal handheld devices and security footage had assisted in the investigation.

Security Camera footage showed Michael Bryant’s black Saab convertible stopped at a light. Sheppard entered the view passing Bryant’s car and pulling to a stop in front of him at the light. When the light turned green Sheppard didn’t immediately move. Bryant moved his car forward, first a little bit and then with greater force he rammed in to the back of Sheppard’s bike pushing him forward and knocking Sheppard to the ground.

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The Navigator Narrative from Michael Bryant

September 19, 2009

Mess Media, September 19, 2009

Michael Bryant in custody

Michael Bryant in custody

In the aftermath of the killing of Darcy Allan Sheppard the media has referred to two conflicting narratives in describing the events that led to Mr Sheppard’s death. One narrative, the “Evidentiary Narrative” took shape based on security camera footage and eyewitness testimony. The other, the “Navigator Narrative” took shape shortly after accused killer, Michael Bryant hired Brian Mulroney’s public relations firm Navigator Ltd.

A week later we now have the second wave of Navigator’s plan – attack the revelations that the Navigator Narrative has no credence. The Globe and Mail’s Joe Friesen in an article entitled “Michael Bryant’s Spin Class” leads the way by claiming the Navigator Narrative MAY have came from old fashioned reporting but did it?

Friesen reveals that even PR experts admit that Navigator is the source for the Navigator Narrative.

Several leading PR experts said they assumed that the story’s changing tone was due at least in part to tips and sources provided to reporters by Navigator. They thought Navigator had encouraged reporters to ask about the movements of victim Darcy Allan Sheppard on the night he died, or pointed them in the direction of his 61 criminal charges, or raised doubts about who was the aggressor in reporters’ minds.

Friesen also admits Navigator was

handing out press releases and generally letting it be known that they were now in charge of Mr. Bryant’s communications.

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When Worlds collide

September 17, 2009

Bicycling, September 16, 2009

by Bob Mionske

Bob Mionske is a nationally known cycling lawyer with a practice exclusively focused on representing cyclists. An advocate for the rights of cyclists, Bob is the author of Bicycling & the Law , the first book written for cyclists on their legal rights and responsibilities since 1895. Bob is also a former U.S. Olympic and pro cyclist; Bob represented the United States in the 1988 and 1992 Olympic games, and was the National Road Race Champion in 1990, amassing a record of over 100 wins during his racing career.

So to set the record straight, here’s what really happened.

The night of August 31, Darcy Allan Sheppard was on his bike on Bloor Street, riding home from his fiancee’s apartment. It was 9:45 p.m. As he approached a traffic light, he passed to the left of a Saab convertible that we now know was Michael Bryant’s. After passing Bryant, who was stopped at the light, Sheppard cut in front of his car and also came to a stop. Shortly thereafter, as the light turned green, Bryant drove forward, perhaps bumping Sheppard’s wheel. Sheppard turned his head back, in Bryant’s direction. Witnesses reported that when the light turned green, there was a toot of the horn from Bryant, and a shout to “get moving,” followed—perhaps—by a return shout from Sheppard. Then, incredibly, Bryant hit the gas, pushing Sheppard forward into the intersection, knocking him off his bike. As Sheppard struggled to get to his feet, Bryant backed up, stopped, turned his wheel and began to drive past Sheppard as he sped away. Read the rest of this entry »

He has a PR firm so where is Michael Bryant’s side of the story?

September 10, 2009

Mess Media, September 10, 2009

Michael Bryant in police custody

Michael Bryant in police custody

After killing Darcy Allan Sheppard, Michael Bryant immediately called his lawyer and then his PR firm Navigator Ltd. He held his first news conference as he stepped out of the police station the next morning.

Other than his resignation letter from Invest Toronto we haven’t heard from him, even though it sounded like the PR plan was for further statements.

Navigator Limited senior partner Robin Sears confirmed Mr. Bryant had retained the top-tier communications firm. He said Mr. Bryant will speak publicly again in the coming days.

Globe and Mail, September 3, 2009

Perhaps the exposure of Navigator as the source of speculation set them back or perhaps Bryant does not have a side to the story.

Howard Levitt, in the Financial Post reviewed his PR campaign so far

Although he began well, he made major errors. First, the fact that his every word is being dictated by a PR firm is indelibly imprinted in everyone’s mind. One would think that, if his PR firm was doing its job well, no one would know of its existence. Many will now believe that whatever Bryant states was written by others and calculated for PR purposes rather than being a disingenuous reflection of the truth.
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ANNOTATED – Toronto Cyclist Sheppard Killed – Bryant on security cameras

September 10, 2009

From the video description:
This is security camera footage edited in the time sequence according to eyewitness accounts from August 31, 2009 9:45pm

There may be gaps of time between the available footage.

Security camera shows Bryant repeatedly approaching Sheppard with his car and seemingly running the bike down, throwing Sheppard over the hood. (Bloor, west of Bay)

Car backs away from a bike and man getting up from the ground. The car accelerates away, driving past the man who runs down the street after/beside the car as it passes him. The bike is left behind.

Car speeds down the street on the wrong side.

Bryant leaves the scene of the cyclist’s death and is apprehended, apparently 1hr 45 minutes later. Questions remain about the intervening time. His second phone call after the accident was to the PR firm Navigator:

I offer my personal respects and condolences to the families and loved ones of both Mr. Bryant and Mr. Sheppard whose lives have been affected by the brutality of this incident.

*** This footage is unaltered except: re-sizing / cropping to fit, brightness contrast adjustment for clarity, cuts between camera angles, and unavoidable artifacts from the video compression algorithms used on the source footages and youtube publishing.

The soundtrack is “Hit & Run” by “Dragonfly” from the album “Blind”, now known as “The Singhs” I am ever grateful for this beautiful and apropos song which has helped soothe me while editing this brutal footage. It is attached for entertainment purposes only.

*** Annotations are to point out details mentioned in news stories and from people familiar with the location. Interpretations of the video footage should be taken as description of an opinion and not fact.

Witnesses to killing of Darcy Allan Sheppard By Michael Bryant

September 10, 2009

Here are two actual witnesses to the killing of Al Sheppard. Their testimony matches other witness accounts and not the speculation put forward by Bryant’s PR firm Navigator Ltd.

Eyewitnesses to a killing by a motorist in Toronto from Mess Media on Vimeo.

`Navigator, changing your perceptions without you even knowing it.'”

September 10, 2009

The media coverage of the killing of Al Sheppard has been intense. There are links to many of them on the Media Articles page. One article in the Toronto Star from September 5 shows the influence of the public relations firm Navigator Ltd. (Spinning the first week of Michael Bryant`s new life)

In the first day after accident media reports focused on the many eyewitnesses of the events.

Comments from the police appearing that day, notably in the Star, suggest a consensus in interviews at the scene. “Based on the circumstances and the evidence we have so far, it was the appropriate charge(s),” says Det. Const. Leslie Lalla. “We have witnesses saying that we have a male hanging on to the driver’s side. Eyewitnesses report he was driving along the curb. The car doesn’t appear to be out of control.”

Michael Bryant is close to Navigator`s Chair Jamie Watt, who is “touted for knowing everybody in Canadian power circles.”

Bryant is said to have called Navigator within a few hours of the initial incident and Navigator went to work quickly.
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