An innocent cab driver caught up in a bomb blast as police closed in and killed a suspected terrorist in Strathroy, Ont., has filed a lawsuit against the RCMP and other authorities for the trauma he says was visited on him.
In his unproven statement of claim, Terry Duffield asserts authorities were negligent in failing to warn or protect him from Aaron Driver, who was shot dead in August 2016 after setting off an explosive in the back of a cab.
“The defendants knew, or ought to have known, that in putting Terry in harm’s way and failing to intervene earlier, Terry’s safety, health and well-being would likely be harmed,” the claim states. “The defendants were negligent in the planning, preparation and execution of the apprehension of Driver.”
Duffield is seeking $1 million in damages from the federal government, which is responsible for the RCMP and the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, the Ontario government for acts committed by provincial police, and two local forces.
The claim has not been tested in court and the defendants have yet to file responses.
A spokesman with Ontario’s attorney general said “the province will defend the action.” And an official with London, Ont., police — one of the police forces named in the lawsuit — said she could not comment because the matter is before the courts.
The other defendants were not immediately available for a statement.
According to the statement of claim filed in Ontario Superior Court, the case arose in December 2014 when the RCMP began investigating Driver in Winnipeg over his online communications with known terrorists.
Police arrested him in June 2015 under anti-terrorism legislation, alleging he had referred to non-Muslims as enemies and posted information to help people travel to Syria to join the Islamic State terrorist group. Police also said they found a recipe for a home-made bomb on his personal computer.
Driver was released on several conditions and moved to Strathroy, where an alarmed neighbour in July 2016 complained about explosions coming from his home, the claim says.
“Police did no, or insufficient, follow-up or investigation as a result of the complaint,” according to the statement of claim. “In the next 10 days, Driver completed the manufacture of a home-made bomb.”
On Aug. 10, 2016, American agents found a video Driver had posted on the internet indicating he was bent on striking a Canadian target within 72 hours. They alerted Canadian authorities, who in turn quickly alerted various transit authorities across the country but not the local cab company Driver regularly used to get around, the statement of claim says.
That afternoon, Driver called for a cab to go to nearby London, Ont., and Duffield responded. Duffield had no idea the RCMP, the bomb squad and other agents had set up a command post near Driver’s home, the claim states. On the cab’s arrival, Driver grabbed a backpack, which contained a bomb, and got into the backseat.
“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,” the claim says.
As Duffield began reversing out of the driveway, police yelled at him to stop as heavily armed officers swarmed the vehicle. Without warning, Driver detonated his device, rocking the cab and filling it with smoke and debris.
Duffield, who was leaning over to retrieve cigarettes, escaped the full force of the blast because the back of the front seat protected his head and upper body. Nevertheless, he suffered cuts to his arms and “ongoing pain and loss of function,” his claim states.
“Pandemonium ensued. Terry heard multiple gunshots,” the claim states. “He lay frightened and traumatized by the violent activity.”
Police ordered Duffield from the car and told him to lie face down in the gravel, which he did. Nearby, police fired several shots at a “twitching” Driver, the claim says.
“Aaron Driver was shot dead on the driveway, feet away from where Terry lay face down,” the claim says. “This further violent act … was devastatingly shocking to Terry’s psyche.”
After briefly questioning him, RCMP released Duffield to find his own way home. Among other things, the claim filed last week asserts Duffield has suffered from post-traumatic stress, lives in pain and with depression, and cannot work.