The killing of Aaron Driver by RCMP on August 10, 2016, in what police have claimed was an anti-terrorism sting has raised a number of serious questions about the nature of the RCMP operation, the police relationship with Driver beforehand, the timing of the police intervention, and the seriousness of the threat, if any, actually posed by Driver. The only information circulating publicly is based on the word of the police and the lone known witness the cabbie, Terry Duffield, called by Driver before the police ambush and in whose taxi Driver was killed by an RCMP bullet.
RCMP claim to have intervened against Driver on the basis of a tip by the FBI that someone in Canada was planning an imminent terrorist attack in a public space. Yet their actions in approaching and killing Driver call into question the response taken to what police are claiming was a real, imminent, threat.
What Manner of Terror Bomb Explodes Killing No One?
Police initially intimated that Aaron Driver had been killed by a bomb that he held and which he detonated upon seeing police approach the cab he was sitting in. Yet an autopsy released by Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), who are investigating the actions of the RCMP has apparently revealed that Driver was killed by police bullets. The autopsy showed that several police bullets struck Driver, piercing vital organs (Rieti 2016).
Aaron Driver’s father, Wayne Driver, reported that his son was killed by a police bullet that struck his heart. The supposed bomb he carried could not have killed him. According to Wayne Driver: “It was the police officer’s bullet that killed him. The bomb that exploded he could have walked away from with minor to severe injuries they said” (quoted in Bell 2016a).
According to police Driver was even allowed to leave the vehicle after the explosion. In the words of RCMP Deputy Commissioner Mike Cabana: “Subsequent to that he came out of the cab and was standing up and was not following the direction that was provided” (quoted in Bell 2016b). And police had no opportunity to act before then given the imminent peril they claim?
This raises one rather large, fundamental, question. How could a bomb that was supposed to pose an imminent threat to broad public safety not be powerful enough to kill even the single person holding it on his lap? Now it is possible that Driver simply messed up in making it. It is also possible, especially given questions raised below about the police actions and the timing of their intervention that they had some knowledge of the bomb beforehand and had reason to expect that the bomb would do little or no harm. Perhaps because police had designed it and helped prepare it, as a dud, in much the manner they did for John Nuttall and Amanda Korody in entrapping that unfortunate couple.
Danger to Whom?: Why Not Protect the Cabbie?
The Strathroy, Ontario, taxi driver in whose cab Aaron Driver was shot and killed would certainly like to know why the police did not act sooner to protect him and to intercept the supposed terrorist before he entered the taxi carrying what RCMP have claimed were two bombs. RCMP officers already had Driver’s home surrounded when Terry Duffield drove his taxi cab into the driveway around 4:30 PM. According to police they swarmed the cab within seconds of Driver entering the back seat. Police claim that with the approach of police Driver detonated one explosive. RCMP claim that it was only in response to that detonation that they shot and killed Driver. In addition to the questions about the nature of a bomb, and its potential to cause mass harm, which could detonate in someone’s lap and not even kill that person directly, there is the question about why police waited, if they really believed Driver carried a serious bomb that posed substantial threat, until he was inside a car with an innocent bystander before approaching him. Why would they give him a chance to detonate the supposed bomb or bombs at all?
For his part Terry Duffield is furious with how police acted, risking his life if their account is true, and is promising legal action against the force. Duffield claims he is still dealing with the shock of that morning’s events and is taking medications for the resulting back pain and stress. In his words: “There will be legal action taken on this. They put my life in jeopardy” (quoted in CBC News 2016). Duffield, like many observers, is perplexed, to say the least, that police, if they really believed they were dealing with a terrorist carrying explosives and out to launch an “imminent attack,” would not stop the suspect before he put a bystander’s (the public’s) life in danger.
In Duffield’s view, police could have and should have done more to protect him than they did. In his words:
“I don’t think police handled it very well at all. They did absolutely nothing to help me. At no time did they try to warn me. At no time did they try to stop my vehicle from entering the address…This gentleman was allowed to walk in front of my car, down the side of my car, get in my car and all of these sharp-shooters, all these SWAT teams and all these people who were supposed to be around, nobody did anything until after the bomb went off.” (quoted in CBC News 2016)
This raises real, significant, questions. It makes the critic wonder if police had reason to believe that Driver’s bomb was a phony, incapable of exploding, much like the one that RCMP helped to build for John Nuttall and Amada Korody in their infamous entrapment case of two poor, marginalized, people dealing with addition and mental health issues in Surrey, British Columbia three years before the river case. Perhaps police believed the bomb was no bomb at all (because they had assisted in or directed its’ making). Perhaps the cabbie was part of the public anti-terror takedown gone wrong (there is no evidence of this at this point and Duffield would seem sincere in his claims). In initial reports it was said that Duffield jumped from the taxi before the bomb was detonated. More recent reports (CBC News 2016) say that police ordered him to leave the car after the bomb had already been detonated.
Duffield had a follow up interview with police and specifically asked why the force did not offer him any protection in their operation that morning. The cabbie remains dissatisfied that police offered him no explanation. The public seeks one as well. Duffield, who has retained a lawyer and intends to pursue legal action, and curious observers alike, are left to ponder.
Maintaining Secrecy and Unaccountability in Anti-Terror Cases: No Independent Investigation
Confounding all of this is the fact that there has been, and there will be, no independent public investigation into the RCMP killing of Aaron Driver and any or all of the questionable circumstances surrounding it. Provincial police have been tasked with the investigation into Driver’s shooting at the request of the Strathroy-Caradoc Police Service (Rieti 2016). The OPP and Strathroy-Caradoc police “continue to jointly investigate the incident” under direction of the head of the OPP’s criminal investigations branch. That is, the police, and only the police, are “investigating” the police in this case. That has been a consistent recipe for cover up, hush up, distortion, and distraction. And legitimation.
All of this is in keeping with the secrecy, lack of transparency, obfuscation, and disassembly that have been the hallmarks of anti-terror practices in Canada. This includes the secretive actions of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Communications Security Establishment Canada (Canada’s NSA) as well as notorious instruments like security certificates which violate all notions of due process and allow for the state to detain people for indefinite periods while subjecting then to “trials” without disclosure or even a reading of charges against them, ad without proper representation or defense.
Bell, Stewart. 2016a. “ISIL Supporter Aaron Driver Was Killed by Police Gunfire, Not Explosive Device He Detonated, Family Says.” The National Post. August 16. http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/isil-supporter-aaron-driver-was-killed-by-police-gunfire-and-not-explosive-device-he-detonated-family-says
Bell, Stewart. 2016b. “Aaron Driver’s ‘More Powerful’ Bomb Never Exploded, RCMP Says, Revealing New Details of Tense Confrontation.” The National Post. August 20. http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/aaron-drivers-more-powerful-bombs-never-detonated-rcmp-says-revealing-new-details-of-tense-confrontation
CBC News. 2016. “Aaron Driver’s Cabbie Plans Legal Action against Police.” CBC News. August 18. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/aaron-driver-taxi-bombing-1.3726701?cmp=rss
Rieti, John. 2016. “Aaron Driver Autopsy Shows RCMP Bullet Killed ISIS Sympathizer.” CBC News. August 16. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/aaron-driver-autopsy-1.3722972