To continue, to go on

On a trip to Markham last week, emergency vehicles with flashing lights lined each overpass on Highway 407. Surely there couldn’t be an incident one after the other we thought.

We happened to be chatting with the editor by phone at the time, noting this spectacle when he said it was likely for the fallen officer being buried that day. Toronto Constable Andrew Hong was struck down days before in a senseless daylight ambush while having lunch. As officers do, they honoured their own with deserved reverence. In the same instance they supported their comrade’s family, their extended family and community writ large.

When tragedies such as this occur, the natural inclination for Canadians is to rally as one – consumed with grief, all the while helplessly perplexed at the unfairness of it all. A life was stolen, forever affecting the officer’s family and colleagues. How to continue, how to go on?

Arriving back at the office, still mulling over this indifference to humanity we ran face first into news that two arrests had been made in the hit-and-run death of Lucas Shortreed. At long last, an answer to the family’s prayers.

Shortreed’s life was stolen 14 years back. On a fateful late-night walk home, he was struck and killed east of Alma.

Despite pleas from family and the OPP spanning over a decade, the suspects remained hidden all that time in clear sight. To learn their lair may still conceal the car that claimed this young man’s life and for much of that time they had lived as if nothing happened that evening is disturbing.

Allowing Lucas’ family and friends to languish in grief without an ounce of empathy to accept responsibility for whatever happened that night is unconscionable. Such actions are immoral.

With these arrests and associated evidence gathered it will be up to the courts to decide. If found guilty after due process under law, what price will be exacted by the court for a stolen life?

Newly installed Inspector Steve Thomas is the fourth head of Wellington OPP to have the Shortreed case under his wing. That gives a sense of how time flies in this fast-paced world, but it also shows the tenacity of Wellington OPP to continue on, seeking closure for a grieving family. Hundreds of tips and vehicles were followed up but until these recent days nothing was firmed up. 

We asked Inspector Thomas about that point – what should have happened at the time. Under the Highway Traffic Act, the driver of a vehicle is required to remain at the scene of a collision and to report that collision to police. Further, the registered owner of a vehicle is obligated to make sure that any collision involving their vehicle is reported to police. Rather than hide, the people involved should have come forward and taken responsibility for their actions.

Had the guilty party taken that step immediately or the next day it would have been better for them and the family of Lucas Shortreed. Instead, this tragedy has been compounded by indescribable cowardice and selfishness. Within that context, the justice system will mete out its conclusion, we suspect falling short of the pain and suffering of Lucas’ family all these years. 

A new hell begins for the family and friends of the accused, who we view as more victims of a tragedy that should have been dealt with long ago. Heartbreak has so many faces. Let’s do our level best to understand their plight in the days and weeks ahead as they try to make sense of this horrible circumstance.

For Lucas, by all measures the stereotypical kid next door, his soul, family and friends have hopefully found some closure. Never forgotten by family, friends, the constabulary, the media, local business-people who faithfully mirrored a giant billboard message in their front windows all these years – this community hung together in its search for answers to an unspeakable crime.