LOCAL NEWS: Toddler ejected from SUV during wild police chase, court hears
Toddler ejected from SUV during wild police chase, court hears
KITCHENER — A Cambridge man who snatched his 20-month-old daughter from her mother after she ended the relationship led police on a high-speed chase on Highway 401, which ended with his SUV rolling three times, ejecting the child.
The toddler landed in a bush and suffered only a small cut, scrapes and bruises.
"It was an absolute stroke of good fortune that no one was killed," Crown prosecutor Nicole Redgate told court on Tuesday.
Jason Bruce, 40, pleaded guilty to five charges, including dangerous driving causing bodily harm, and was sentenced to four years in prison.
Around 6 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, after learning his common-law wife, Kimberly Lockhart, was ending their five-year relationship, Bruce found Lockhart with their child in her truck on Elgin Street North in Cambridge.
When she locked the doors, Bruce repeatedly punched the driver's side window and then jumped on the sunroof, shattering it.
Lockhart fled a short distance on foot. Bruce grabbed the toddler.
"Ms. Lockhart attempted to prevent him from leaving and screamed out, 'He has my baby!' while running to the rear of Mr. Bruce's vehicle," Redgate said, reading from an agreed statement of facts.
With his daughter on his lap, Bruce drove across a front lawn and along a sidewalk before speeding down Elgin Street.
A witness called 911 and the hunt was on.
At 6:24 p.m., Bruce told Lockhart in a text he was halfway to London and heading for the United States. "You will never see her again," he wrote.
Bruce also threatened to burn down Lockhart's house.
At 6:35 p.m., a Waterloo Regional Police officer found Bruce in his 2003 Chevy Trailblazer in a driveway on Michigan Avenue in Cambridge. His daughter was in the vehicle. Bruce backed out, almost hitting the cruiser, then drove over the curb and fled at a high rate of speed, almost hitting several cars.
"No pursuit was initiated due to concerns for the well-being of the child," Redgate said.
Police instructed several OPP detachments to be on the lookout for the SUV. Officers positioned their cruisers along Highway 401 between Cambridge and London.
At 7:26 p.m., Bruce's cellphone pinged on Highway 401 in Woodstock. A police officer spotted the SUV and followed it. The child was in the front passenger seat, unbuckled. Bruce had been holding his arm out to try to keep her in place.
At 7:44 p.m., OPP cruisers assembled in a V-formation in front of the SUV in an effort to slow and then stop it. The SUV sped up and evaded police. Bruce foiled the "rolling block" three times.
Near London, a police sergeant pulled in front of the SUV to try to slow it down. The SUV swerved around the cruiser at a high rate of speed.
The officer activated his siren and chased the SUV, concluding that "the threat of immediate bodily harm or death to the abducted child in the vehicle and the need to stop the vehicle outweighed the risk to public safety," Redgate said.
The SUV was travelling 160 km/h and swerving back and forth across three lanes of traffic. At one point, the sergeant's cruiser and another cruiser were intentionally side-swiped.
In the end, the sergeant used his cruiser to deliberately strike the back of the SUV, pushing it into the median.
"Given the excessive speed and dangerous manner in which Mr. Bruce was operating his vehicle, his SUV spun off the median, across the lanes of traffic along Highway 401 and into the north ditch," Redgate said.
It rolled three times, ejecting Bruce's daughter through the front passenger window, which had been broken during the pursuit.
Luckily, the toddler landed in a bush. A constable found her lying flat with her head up, crying. She was muddy and her face was bloodied. She suffered a cut, bruises and scrapes on her face and a scrape near her stomach. Her left eye was swollen.
Without checking on his daughter, Bruce fled on foot. Police used a Taser and arrested him.
Bruce has been in jail since the crash. His daughter was released from hospital the next day.
"She does ask: 'Where's Daddy? When does Daddy come home?' " Lockhart said in an emotional victim impact statement she read out loud in court.
Bruce, handcuffed in the prisoner's box, appeared to wipe away a tear.
Defence lawyer Darwin Witmer said Bruce had no intention of hurting his daughter. He said Bruce initially thought he had buckled her in.
A roofer for 15 years, Bruce "slipped into a dark place" in 2015, Lockhart said.
"What I assumed was a midlife crisis was actually something far worse. Surrounded by stress and not having the courage to ask for help caused a downward spiral that was costly for our family. Crystal meth consumed the man I built my life with."
Bruce has prior convictions for crimes in domestic situations.
Justice Donald Ebbs, who said it was one of the most serious driving offences he has heard of in the recent past, agreed to a joint submission of four years in prison. With enhanced credit for presentence custody, Bruce has another two years and six weeks to serve.
He was handed a 10-year driving ban and a 10-year weapons ban and ordered to give a DNA sample for the national database. Bruce must make $14,000 restitution for the damage to the cruisers.