May 2018

Strathroy taxi driver sues authorities after being caught in middle of harrowing confrontation with suspected terrorist

by Mike Beggs

A Strathroy, Ont. taxi driver is suing the RCMP and other authorities for the injuries and trauma he suffered when he wound up in the path of a bomb blast as police closed in and killed a suspected terrorist, according to a March 23 story by the Canadian Press.

In an unproven statement of claim filed in Ontario Superior Court in mid-March, driver Terry Duffield alleges negligence on the part of the authorities by failing to warn, or protect him from suspected terrorist Aaron Driver, who, in the August 16 incident, set off an explosive in the back of the cab and was shot dead by police.

The claim asserts that, “The defendants knew, or ought to have known, that in putting Terry in harm’s way and failing to intervene earlier, his safety, health and well-being would likely be harmed. The defendants were negligent in the planning, preparation and execution of the apprehension of Driver.”

Duffield is seeking damages of $1 million from the federal government (responsible for the RCMP, and Integrated National Security Enforcement Team), the provincial government for acts committed by OPP’s, and local forces.

The defendants have still to file responses, and the case has not been tested in court. But a spokesperson with the Ontario Attorney General’s office told CP, “The province will defend the action.”

The statement of claim asserts that, in December of 2014, the RCMP began its investigations of Driver in Winnipeg, because he was communicating online with known terrorists. Police arrested him in June of 2015 under anti-terrorism legislation, alleging that he had referred to non-Muslims as enemies and posted information on how to travel to Syria to join the Daesh terrorist group. Police said they found the schematic to build a homemade bomb on his personal computer.

Driver was released on several conditions and relocated to Strathroy, just outside of London. In July of 2016, an alarmed neighbor reported of explosions coming from his home.

And according to the statement of claim, “Police did no, or insufficient follow-up or investigation as a result of the complaint. And in the next 10 days, Driver completed the manufacture of a homemade bomb.”

It was on August 10, 2016 that U.S. agents discovered a video Driver had posted online indicating he was planning to strike a Canadian target within 72 hours, and put Canadian authorities on high alert. They in turn alerted all transit authorities across the nation -- but not the local taxi company Driver used frequently.

According to CP, that afternoon Driver called for a cab ride to London, and Duffield responded but with no knowledge that the RCMP, bomb squad, and other agents had a command post set up outside Driver’s home. Upon the taxi’s arrival, Driver climbed in the back seat with a backpack containing a bomb.

The claim states that, “The defendant authorities knew or ought to have known that Driver likely had a bomb, or explosive device with him or otherwise posed a danger to Terry, but did nothing to warn Terry or to prevent Driver from coming closer to Terry’s vehicle.”

When the cabby began backing out of the driveway, police shouted at him to stop. Heavily armed officers swooped in on the cab, at which point -- without warning -- Driver detonated his device, shaking the taxi and filing it with smoke and debris.

Having leaned forward to grab a pack of cigarettes, Duffield escaped the full force of the explosion, his head and upper body protected by the driver’s seat. However, he suffered cuts to his arms and an, “ongoing pain and loss of function.”

“Pandemonium ensued,” the claim states. “Terry heard multiple gunshots. He lay frightened and traumatized by the violent activity.”

Police ordered Duffield from the car and to lie face down on the gravel driveway, while officers fired several shots at a “twitching” Driver.

“Aaron Driver was shot dead on the driveway, feet away from where Terry lay face down. This further violent act was devastatingly shocking to Terry’s psyche,” the claim asserts.

The RCMP briefly questioned Duffield, before releasing him to find his own way home.

The claim asserts that Duffield has suffered from post-traumatic stress, lives in pain and depression, and can’t work.

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Strathroy taxi driver sues authorities after being caught in middle of harrowing confrontation with suspected terrorist