Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Michael Bryant & Darcy Sheppard: Fight or Flight Reflex?

There is no doubt that the death of Darcy Sheppard was an unnecessary tragedy. It's also a tragedy that Michael Bryant now has to bare the consequences of the altercation between the two.

It will be interesting to see the rest of the facts and the outcome of the case, here are a few links that I'm getting my current info from.
Now there is not much information available, however we do have a few facts:
  1. The cyclist attached himself (grabbed on) to the vehicle.
  2. He was pulled or dragged or otherwise moved 100 meters down the road.
  3. The whole altercation spanned only 1 minute.
  4. The passenger in the vehicle called police during the incident.
  5. The driver (Bryant) accelerated after Sheppard grabbed on to the vehicle.
  6. Sheppard had dealings with police officers earlier in the day.
Based on those facts and without much else available yet, a couple of things strike me.
  1. Sheppard must have been being aggressive and/or violent earlier in the day if the police were called to remove him from a location.
  2. Sheppard demonstrated aggressiveness again when he grabbed onto Bryants vehicle during the incident.
  3. Bryants unnamed passenger felt threatened enough to call the police.
  4. Bryant showed a lack of judgement when he accelerated his vehicle down the street.
  5. In order for the bike to strike the car, Sheppard would have had to have run into the vehicle. If the opposite had happened (car striking cyclist), the weight and momentum of the vehicle would likely not have left him standing so that he could grab onto the vehicle.
All of us who drive and ride bicycles have had words with others using the roads. However its pretty clear that Sheppard was being aggressive and violent. Bryant may have also been aggressive, however it's clear the passenger felt threatened.

I'm not sure if I had been the driver, I would have done anything different than Bryant did. Imagine your in a convertible an aggressive and violet man grabs onto your car... what do you do?

Would you feel threatened enough for your fight or flight reflex to kick in?

The lives of both families will be severely impacted because of "stupidness" on the part of both Bryant and Sheppard. However I'm not sure this could have happened any other way. When physical contact starts between two opposing aggressors, one will get hurt... maybe not always dead but certainly someone is going to feel it.


Unknown said...

You repeatedly state that the victim in this case must have been aggressive or violent. Nothing in the facts as we know them indicates this. The truth is, we don't know exactly what happened.

One thing we do know is that - after dragging the victim 100 meters to his death - Bryant called his PR firm before calling his lawyer. That speaks volumes about his character. He's a douche-bag.

He vowed to get tough on crime while he was the AG. Now it's time for him to reap what he sowed.

Brill Pappin said...

I absolutely do use the words *aggressive* and *violent* for a person who chases down a car on foot and grabs onto it (or the driver)... he wasn't giving Bryant a high five (if he was it would just be darwinism at work).

Bryant may also have been aggressive and violent in swerving his car across the road... although there are not yet any facts to support that supposition (they may show up yet) and in fact, when you think about how this happened as described so far, it's actually not surprising the car ended up against the curb on the other side of the road, particularly when you have a little knowledge of how humans react when they are in a situation where they reflexively fend something off, like an aggressive person grabbing they car... and thats if Sheppard didn't grab the wheel himself, which would absolutely pull the car in the direction it actually went as he yanked on the wheel.

Frankly, it was an expensive car, I think it unlikely that Bryant would have purposely mashed up his car against the opposite curb even if he was deliberately trying to get the crazy man off his car (drivers will instinctively avoid *all* obstacles they can see).

The fact is that we don't know all the details however if you read the next article ( you can see what *is reported* about the incident.

Your comment about Bryant's character may be accurate, however automatically assuming he is at fault is just plain ignorant.

The reports that we are able to see (assuming the news sources are accurate, which I don't usually take at face value) then it's looking more and more to me as if Sheppard caused his own death.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's really sad, and I'm not actually pulling for one or the other outcome, however I wrote those articles as a way to go against the automatic assumption that seems to be prevalent among people commenting on the issue.

I feel that most people assume guilt where it may be unwarranted.

As for Bryan't calling is PR folks... certainly sounds sleezy the way it's told... but i'm not sure I wouldn't have done the same, particularly if it was going to unfairly damage my future. Calling PR before laywer and after police.... not so sleezy... it's just timing. opinion was out there and negative long before he needed legal help.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that you don't know what happened... reports actually suggest Sheppard caused it... so why do you assume that Bryant intentionally tried to kill him?
Does he deserve automatic vilification because he's successful and well off and/or was driving? Does Sheppard deserve automatic "victim" status because he was on a bike when he ran into Bryant's car or because the car he ran after and grabbed onto eventually killed him?

Who really is the victim?

As a cyclist, a driver and someone interested in justice, I'll be interested in seeing the evidence myself so I can make up my own mind.

Unknown said...

All of the reports that suggest Sheppard caused it come from the PR firm. The police are not saying anything - nor should they until the facts come out in the trial.

As a cyclist and driver, I too want the facts. My comments are simple in response to yours. ...and yours tow the PR firm's line.

As for Bryant's guilt? It was his legal responsibility to stop the vehicle, regardless of how much he was in fear for his safety. That's the law. Plain and simple.

Brill Pappin said...

It's quite possible that what I have read comes from a PR firm since I get my information from the newspaper like everyone else... that doesn't make it untrue, just possibly one-sided.

I don't disagree that Bryant needed to stop the vehicle which he apparently did after ~100 meters, but remember it's reported that this all happened in seconds.
If something did happen to distract him then it becomes a a tragic accident (which may or may not have been directly caused by Sheppard).

My point is that most of the vocal comments assume Bryant is guilty of purposely killing Sheppard (as explicitly indicated in your first post), however it is just as likely that Sheppard actually caused the accident.

Regardless, for Sheppard to have been somehow attached the vehicle, he had to have been the aggressor.

If you don't agree that he was the aggressor, I would really like to hear an explanation as to how Sheppard got "attached" to the drivers side of the vehicle (without his bike) in order to be slammed into the roadside fixtures on the opposite side of the road.

It just doesn't make sense.

Frankly, if some aggressive guy is coming at me in my car (particularly if my top is down) and we have had an "argument" I am not going to stop my car to get beaten or shot or whatever. Self preservation is a powerful motivator.

Brill Pappin said...


Just a quick note: after my last comment I went looking to see what else was out there on the incident.

It seems that police are investigating and have made some comments:

They are actually investigating reports that Sheppard may have grabbed the wheel or was otherwise attempting to engage Bryant in a violent encounter.

Of course, as you pointed out, this may be from the PR firm, however there are quotes in the article from the investigating officers, which I doubt the PR firm could have penned.

Unknown said...

...and Michael Bryant feared for his safety? He prides himself on is 30 years of training as a boxer.

I am not saying that the victim wasn't a drug addict, or wasted, or even psychotic. What I'm trying to get accross is the fact that it doesn't matter. Sheppard was on a bike. Then he was on foot. Bryant was in a car.

No contest and the law is clear.

Brill Pappin said...


Car vs. Pedestrian; Those are facts as far as we know... however if you are are driving down the road in your car and a pedestrian jumps right in front of you... are you evil?

I don't presume it was that simple, I suspect both are to blame, however just because it was a car and pedestrian (no longer cyclist because he got off) doesn't justify crucifying him without a thorough investigation.

However, in this country, when there is a death involved, the police automatically lay manslaughter charges... the punishment is left for later as the courts decide how much misadventure the two parties got into... at that time the punishment will hopefully fit the crime, if indeed there was a crime.

I'm about to go looking around for some more detail (I hear there is some video around) and will write another post when i get more info.