Friday, February 5, 2016
Toronto Police Officer Const. Darius Garda, a 51 division crime analyst, was pulled from Lake Ontario, had PTSD from on-job shooting
“Just a terrific guy,” said one copper who knew him for years. “And a good police officer. He cared a lot.”
But on April 19, 2010, something happened that haunted Garda for the rest of his days.
Garda and some of his 51 Division partners shot and killed 50-year-old Wieslaw Duda after he refused to get out of his car following a pursuit and drove into one of the officers.
It was later revealed Duda had mental-health issues. Garda didn’t find his role in Duda’s death easy to live with.
After years of counselling, therapy, pats on the back, time off, special projects, ups and downs, the much-loved Garda went down to the area of Polson Pier in lower 51 Division Wednesday — near where Duda was shot — and ended up in the lake.
Police put out a report Wednesday night that they were searching for someone in the lake, but it wasn’t until Thursday morning when the horrible reality of this very sad story started to reveal itself.
Garda’s marine unit colleagues found him in the water and there was nothing they could do.
He was gone.
“Another brother has fallen in the line of duty,” one copper told me.
It’s unclear if he was in fact on duty — sources tell me Garda had been off in recent months battling depression — but that’s not what his colleague meant. “This was a PTSD case all the way.”
What happened in those early morning hours all those years ago didn’t kill him then but caught up with him later.
The Special Investigations Unit’s report on the Duda shooting says after an abandoned pursuit, police located the erratic-driving Duda again in the Cherry and Commissioners Sts. area.
“At about 1:31 a.m., Mr. Duda’s vehicle arrived and momentarily stopped just east of the intersection. Several officers, with pistols unholstered, shouted at Mr. Duda to show his hands and get out of the car. Mr. Duda did not comply with the officers’ commands and instead accelerated in their direction.”
It continues: “One of the officers was struck by Mr. Duda’s vehicle and was propelled onto the vehicle, causing its windshield to shatter.”
It was at that point “several officers discharged a total of 32 rounds from their pistols at Mr. Duda, and one officer discharged his shotgun twice at Mr. Duda.”
Duda died, but then-SIU director Ian Scott made it clear “the subject officers were justified in using lethal force in these circumstances.”
The police watchdog’s report didn’t seem to help.
“We talked to Darius a lot, but obviously it did not work,” said someone close to him, fighting back tears. “He was a mess. Even though it was ruled as a justified shooting, he never got over it.”
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack said the important thing he and others on the job and in the community can do is support the family and the officers who are shaken.
Police spokesman Mark Pugash was also sombre, but out of respect for the family and the upcoming post-mortem, he could only confirm an officer had died. There’s no official cause of death yet.
The OPP recently suffered through the loss of one of their own as well. It’s a good reminder to all of us that police officers are human too.
Sometimes the job we ask them to do isn’t something they can walk away from at the end of their shift.
RIP, Toronto Police Const. Darius Garda.
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