It’s been more than a year since a crash killed a Delaware Nation teen, paralyzed a young man and injured a young woman and APTN Investigates has discovered problems with the police investigation that determined no charges against the driver in the collision.
Brayden Hopkins was 21 on Nov. 19, 2016 when at 1:40 a.m. he was driving through Moraviantown and hit the three pedestrians.
Bailey Jacobs died two days shy of her 17th birthday. Tanner Whiteeye remains in a wheelchair. His mother’s home is retrofitted to accommodate his new life. Jordi Whiteye didn’t suffer serious physical harm but lives with the horror of what happened that night.
They and their families are dissatisfied with what police concluded: that the crash was just an unfortunate and unavoidable occurrence on an unlit road late one night.
“There’s just a lot I don’t understand,” says Tanner’s mother Yolanda Whiteeye. “We weren’t given any investigation. I continually, throughout this entire thing — while my kid was in a coma — constantly asking what happened. How does someone plow through three kids? I don’t understand that.”
Was the driver not paying attention? Did he stop at the four-way stop before turning and hitting them? Where was he coming from and going to at 1:40 a.m.? How did police rule out speed as a factor when they didn’t do a speed analysis?
They say he was driving with his high beams on but how could you not see three people ahead of you if you’re driving slowly with your beams on? How is a 350-pound girl thrown to her death if you’re going slowly? Why was a man on the hood of the car for approximately 50 meters before it came to a stop?
Why weren’t people at the scene interviewed until weeks later, and after they contacted police who hadn’t contacted them for statements? During the 10-month investigation why was the driver – a former police summer cadet — allowed to move to Sweden to play pro hockey?
These are some of the questions APTN Investigates wanted answered.
We requested the Chatham OPP investigation in its entirety through the Freedom of Information Act in October 2017. The Ontario government has 30 days to respond but to date – three months later – has not.
APTN was forced to purchase a copy of the traffic reconstruction report for $1,130. But the OPP refused to answer questions about it or be interviewed about the crash or the investigation.
To make sense of the report APTN retained the services of retired Winnipeg traffic investigator Damian Turner who reviewed it.
“Very basic investigative techniques weren’t included in the report,” Turner said. “It’s just totally lacking in any detail. I would be incredulous that they would believe that was a proper and thorough investigation,”
APTN spoke with several people who claim the driver was ignored by police at the scene and left to himself for up to an hour.
Turner explains the problem with that:
“The person who was driving the car and the condition they’re in at that time, if they have been drinking or have drugs in their body, their behavior, the smells, the way they look — that all forms evidence and that needs to be preserved and the only way to do that is to detain them while you conduct your investigation,” he said.
In an audio recording obtained by APTN from a meeting with survivors and their families, an OPP officer says, “Five separate police officers dealt with Brayden that night and even after driving from Moraviantown (Delaware Nation) to the Chatham-Kent detachment with the heat on, not one of them observed any alcohol odor.”
As such, the driver was not breathalyzed.
So what caused the collision?
“Based on the lack of information in the report we’ll never know,” Turner said. “To an ordinary person traveling down a dark road at relatively low speed you shouldn’t miss three people walking ahead of you on the roadway.”
“The truth is not known,” said Greg Holden, owner of the online news service CK News Review in Chatham, who followed the investigation. “It’s been covered up either by bungling or deliberateness and it’s hard to know for sure, but I believe it’s bungling. That the police didn’t do their jobs very well.”
APTN contacted Hopkins through social media and asked questions about the collision and if there’s anything he’d like to say to the families. The message was read but he didn’t respond.
“No apologies from him, it’s like the kids wasn’t the victims, it’s like he was. Not our children,” said Alma Jacobs, Bailey’s grandmother.
APTN asked the Crown Attorney’s office why they recommended no charges in the case – whether it was lack of evidence a crime was committed, or if the police investigation was insufficient to proceed. They said their reasons are “privileged and confidential.”
The Office of the Independent Police Review Director deals with complaints about police in Ontario and has the authority to investigate investigations and discipline if it finds grounds to. But they won’t launch an investigation unless a formal complaint has been filed. So far the families and survivors haven’t done that.
“The Crash” airs tonight (Jan. 19) on APTN Investigates, right after the APTN National News.