15-year-old faces murder charges for tragic death of Const. Garrett Styles

15-year-old faces murder charges for tragic death of Const. Garrett Styles
Constable Garrett Styles
The 15-year-old male youth involved in a traffic incident that took the life of York Regional police officer, Const. Garrett Styles, has been charged with first degree murder. Styles dying words as he called for help were caught on tape.
The York Regional Police Homicide Unit has charged a 15-year-old youth in York Region with first-degree murder in the on-duty death of Constable Garrett Styles.

The accused male, the driver of the vehicle involved in the incident, was charged last night in hospital, where he remains with serious injuries.

He was remanded into the custody of the Correctional Service of Canada and is scheduled to appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Newmarket on Thursday, July 7, 2011.

His name will not be released under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

On Tuesday, June 28, 2011, shortly before 5 a.m., Styles initiated a traffic stop on Highway 48 just south of Herald Road in the Town of East Gwillimbury. He pulled over a 2005 Dodge Caravan with four occupants. Styles was investigating the driver and was at the driver’s side door when the vehicle accelerated. He was dragged approximately 300 metres before the vehicle lost control and rolled over, pinning him beneath it.

Firefighters with the East Gwillimbury Emergency Services extricated him and he was rushed to Southlake Regional Health Centre by York Region EMS, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Three passengers in the van were not seriously injured and are cooperating with the investigation, which is ongoing.

Styles joined York Regional Police as a cadet-in-training in December 2003 and became a constable in May 2004. He worked Uniform Patrol in #2 District, covering Richmond Hill and most recently in #1 District, covering the towns of Newmarket, Aurora and East Gwillimbury.

In the last moments before emergency responders came to his rescue, Styles, a father of two young children, spoke on his radio from under the crushing weight of the upturned minivan, in an effort to call for help.

Styles' dying words were captured moments after the bizarre tragedy began to unfold.

"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.

Styles died in hospital about an hour after firefighters freed him.

The death of Styles, who would have turned 33 on Sunday, rippled through the police and civilian communities. Officers hugged and cried at the scene of the incident, and the flag at the district headquarters where Styles was based flew at half-mast.

Among those placing flowers outside the detachment in Newmarket was 12-year-old Victoria Watson-Setejak of nearby Aurora, Ont.

"I felt horrible," she said. "The police already do so much for the world and to hear someone passed away doing a good thing makes me feel bad."

York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe described Styles as a dedicated, up-and-coming officer and devoted family man.

Born and raised in Newmarket, Ont., about 45 minutes north of Toronto, Styles leaves a nine-week-old son and two-year-old daughter. The officer 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.

Styles joined the police force seven years ago and was on his way to becoming a staff sergeant, Jolliffe said.

"His supervisors spoke of him as a dedicated, professional, hard-working officer who always had time to assist others," said Jolliffe. "He was well-liked among his peers and he loved being a police officer."

Police said Styles stopped the minivan carrying four teens on Highway 48 east of Newmarket at about 5 a.m. Jolliffe said the passengers in the minivan were co-operating with police.

Styles' death comes six months after Toronto police officer Ryan Russell was struck and killed by a stolen snowplow he was trying to stop. Just last week, an officer from Peterborough in eastern Ontario was shot and wounded during a drug raid on a suspected crack house in nearby Lindsay, Ont.

"Police officers put their lives on the line each and every day when they leave their families to protect others," Jolliffe said.

Premier Dalton McGuinty said he was "deeply saddened" to hear of Styles' death, and also acknowledged the dangers of policing.

"We ask them to uphold our laws, protect our homes and, if need be, put our safety before theirs," he said.

Other police officers and politicians echoed similar sentiments.

"Policing is a dangerous job but it's something that each one of us does because we want to be part of something that's bigger than ourselves," said Matt Torigian of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. "The nobility of public service, and in particular the nobility of policing, is what brings us to our jobs every day and we don't lose sight of that."

The last York Regional Police constable to be killed was Det. Const. Robert Plunkett in 2007. He died when a stolen car driven by Nadeem Jiwa pinned the 42-year-old officer against a tree. Jiwa is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday, with the Crown seeking a sentence of 12 to 14 years.

-- With files from Colin Perkel of The Canadian Press and Pat Hewitt in Toronto