Jun 29 2011
NEWMARKET, Ont. - Police charged a 15-year-old boy Wednesday with first-degree murder in the death of a York Regional police officer who was dragged and crushed by a minivan during a pre-dawn traffic stop.
Police say the boy was driving the van that Const. Garrett Styles pulled over early Tuesday morning on a rural highway north of Toronto.
Styles, a 32-year-old father of two, was standing at the driver's door when police say the vehicle suddenly accelerated, dragging the officer some 300 metres and trapping him underneath it.
He died later in hospital.
Reports say the 15-year-old has serious injuries and was charged Tuesday night at a Toronto hospital. He was remanded into custody and is scheduled to appear in a Newmarket court July 7.
A charge of first-degree murder is automatic when a homicide case involves the death of a police officer.
The teen cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The maximum sentence allowed for anyone convicted under that act is a life sentence with no possibility of parole for 10 years.
Police say three other youths in the van were not seriously injured and are co-operating with the investigation.
The funeral for Styles is scheduled for Tuesday in Newmarket.
The York Regional Police Association says the viewing for Const. Garrett Styles will be on Monday in Thornhill.
Investigators are seeking witnesses to help them piece together what went wrong during the traffic stop just before dawn.
Officers canvassed motorists Wednesday on the rural road where Styles's life was cut tragically short.
They are hoping to find anyone who saw the officer stop the van or have interaction with the people in the vehicle.
Meanwhile, members of the public have placed flowers, cards and teddy bears at the detachment where Styles was based. Some signed a book of condolences.
Styles's call for help to a police dispatcher after he was injured was published and broadcast by several media outlets. Some people have called the words heartbreaking while others say the exchange should have never been made public.
"I've got a van on my waist - I don't know, it hurts,'' Styles says, his voice measured and calm but clearly in distress, in a call to dispatchers that was archived by the scanner website RadioReference.com.
"Will somebody get this off me, please?''
During the call, the dispatcher tries several times to reassure Styles, telling him help is on the way.
"I know you're having a hard time breathing. Just keep talking to us. Garrett, talk to me, OK?'' the dispatcher says.
"I'm trying. I'm trying,'' comes the desperate reply.
Styles’ breathing grew more difficult as the conversation went on.
Styles, who was to celebrate his 33rd birthday Sunday, came from a policing family. His father, Gary, retired in January after a three-decade career with York Regional Police. His wife, Melissa, is a civilian employee with the force.
The officer joined the police force seven years ago and was on his way to becoming a staff sergeant.
Styles was remembered Tuesday as a great colleague by his best friend on the York Regional Police service, and as great neighbour in his hometown of Keswick, Ont.
“He was a wonderful friend, a wonderful father and a wonderful police officer,” Det. Const. Erin Tester said before breaking down in tears outside Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, where Styles died Tuesday morning of injuries received in an early-morning traffic accident.
Tester and Styles both have children about the same age — a 2-1/2-year-old and a baby about nine weeks old. Tester said she has known Styles for 13 years.
Styles joined the York Regional Police in December 2003 and became a constable in May 2004.
“I live opposite him. He was a really nice guy,” said neighbour Roy Frederick said. “I saw him yesterday, and I spoke to his wife just after the birth of his son a couple of months ago. I remember two years ago, our lawns were so messed up with weeds and we talked to each other about that. We would just chit-chat.”
York Region’s police chief issued a statement Tuesday morning outside the hospital in Newmarket.
“It’s with deep regret that I advise you that a capable officer of the York Regional Police has succumbed to his injuries,” Chief Eric Jolliffe said.
“(The family) very much appreciates that at this particular time, that you give them the space to deal with their loss,” he said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Premier Dalton McGuinty issued a statement, calling the death of Styles a “loss to all of us.”
“I was deeply saddened by the death of Constable Garrett Styles,” McGuinty said.
“My deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends and to the York Regional Police during this very difficult time. His death is a tremendous loss not only for those who loved him, but for all of us.”
The public asks a lot from those who serve as police officers, he added.
“We ask them to uphold our laws, protect our homes and, if need be, put our safety before theirs. Our police, and their families, agree to protect us and ours knowing that doing so may mean paying the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.
“Today, we're reminded once again of the depth of that selfless service.”
OPP Sgt. Dave Woodford said that although the accident took place on a provincial highway, the OPP will not be investigating the officer’s death.
He said it is better that one unit, the York Regional Police, probe the incident to streamline the investigation.
This is the second York police officer to be struck by a vehicle and killed in four years.
Det.-Const. Robert Plunkett was pinned against a tree in Markham on Aug. 2, 2007, after he tried to stop a stolen car. The driver, Nadeem Jiwa, 23, was recently found guilty of manslaughter.