A now-retired Barrie police officer has pleaded guilty to using a firearm in a careless manner in connection with what court heard was an accidental shooting at a getaway car, injuring a man in the back seat.
The Crown and defence lawyers jointly asked Justice Michelle Fuerst on Tuesday for an absolute discharge in the case of former Barrie police sergeant Michael Chytuk. In court, the Crown described the case as having a low "moral fault level" while the defence said it had "a profoundly low level of moral culpability."
Sentencing will be on Nov. 4, although the judge indicated she expected there to be no reason to reject the joint submission.
“This was an unintentional discharge that is as close as one could possibly get to innocent behaviour involving the discharge of a firearm,” defence lawyer David Butt stressed in an email following Tuesday’s appearance, reiterating points he made in court.
“This event happened in circumstances where the robbers placed Sgt. Chytuk’s life in grave and imminent danger. He responded bravely.
"One has a ton of sympathy and admiration for Sgt. Chytuk given how he responded to the dangerous situation created by the robbers’ reckless behaviour," Butt added.
An absolute discharge would allow Chytuk to leave the force with his head held high after “an exemplary career," he said.
Chytuk was originally charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm following an investigation by the Special Investigations Unit. The SIU declined comment, indicating that its role ends after the laying of the charge.
Court heard two men — Tuqor Jones, then 21 years old, and Ashtoney Thompson, who was 20 — and two teenage girls drove to Barrie from Toronto in a stolen Honda Civic on Sept. 17, 2018. At the Duckworth Plaza at 3 a.m., the girls struck a deal with two men who agreed to pay them $40 to kiss them and they walked to a local park.
At the park, they paired off where one of the girls grabbed one of the men’s wallets and took off. One of the girls sprayed one of the men in the face with mace while running back to the Honda at the plaza.
The event, along with a partial licence plate, was reported to police.
Jones then drove the Honda and its three occupants to a St. Vincent Street gas station where one of the girls used a credit card from the stolen wallet for gas.
During refueling, Chytuk, who left a roadside check when he received word of the robbery and the search for suspects, happened upon the Honda.
When he pulled the marked Chevy Tahoe police vehicle in front of the Honda on an angle, the girl yelled out “Cops!” and jumped back into the Honda.
Court heard that by then Chytuk had hopped out of the SUV and unholstered his firearm with his right hand. When the Honda sped off through a narrow opening past the police vehicle, it made contact with Chytuk’s left hand, throwing him off balance and he unintentionally discharged his semi-automatic Glock, which he had pulled out from the holster, Crown attorney Ian Bulmer read from the agreed statement of facts.
The Honda, with police in hot pursuit, then crashed into a tree at St. Vincent Park and the suspects fled on foot. The driver and two teenage girls were apprehended.
Thompson got away and fled to a Tim Hortons restaurant. He then got a taxi to the GO station, eventually making his way back to Toronto. He was arrested by Toronto police on Oct. 10, three weeks later, on unrelated charges. The police bullet was still lodged in his shoulder. It was removed during surgery on Nov. 29 while he was in custody, court heard.
Thompson later pleaded to theft and was handed a conditional discharge along with 12 months’ probation.
The driver, Tuqur Jones, pleaded guilty in June to possession of a stolen car and dangerous driving and handed a conditional discharge and two years' probation.
Barrie police confirmed Chytuk retired on July 31, 2021 and is no longer a serving member of the city’s service.