Five motorcyclists are facing a number of charges in connection with two separate incidents of aggressive stunt driving on Toronto-area highways that police say left one man dead and led to a violent road rage confrontation.
Ontario Provincial Police said the arrests were the culmination of an eight-month long investigation.
The first incident unfolded in the early hours of July 23 when a group of motorcyclists began slowing traffic and performing risky stunts on Hwy. 401 near Allen Road in Toronto, authorities said.
“They would all stage up together and there would be several motorcyclists that would be slowing down traffic, giving some buffer space, some room for other riders to go up ahead and start doing their wheelies and doing their stunts,” OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt told CTV Toronto on Tuesday.
One of the bikers, Mauro Bustelo from Toronto, was killed when several of the riders in the group collided with a transport truck. Another motorcyclist was taken to hospital with minor injuries. The OPP said the other remaining bikers fled the scene before emergency personnel arrived.
The second incident occurred on another busy Toronto-area highway at 10:40 p.m. on Sept. 22. Police said a group of motorcyclists travelling together on Hwy. 427 near Dundas Street were slowing traffic and performing similar dangerous stunts.
A witness video obtained by CTV Toronto shows a black Volkswagen Golf attempting to manoeuvre around the bikers who were occupying multiple lanes of the highway. At one point, the driver of the Volkswagen approached riders at the front of the pack and an unidentified white object was thrown into the path of the motorcyclists.
Investigators said the Volkswagen Golf and the group of bikers pulled off the highway at Hwy. 401 near Dixie Road in Mississauga, just west of Toronto, where a violent confrontation occurred.
OPP said the female passenger of the car was assaulted during the altercation. She alleged that she was punched in the face and knocked to the ground by one of the motorcyclists.
The driver of the car then fled the scene and was chased by the group of bikers, according to police. The driver of the Volkswagen Golf lost control on Aerowood Drive and crashed into a retaining wall, flipped over and burst into flames.
The 22-year-old driver from Kitchener, Ont. managed to escape the accident with only minor injuries but he was immediately charged with drug possession, driving while under suspension and dangerous driving. The motorcyclists fled the scene of the crash before police arrived.
Schmidt said witness video from the second case allowed investigators to connect the two incidents.
“By descriptions, by licence plates, by the investigation that unfolded and brought us to the point where we could prove that the same motorcycle and the same rider was on both scenes,” he said.
On Tuesday, OPP executed six search warrants for several locations in the Toronto area and arrested five suspects.
One of the suspects, 33-year-old Mitchell Lees of Richmond Hill, Ont., is facing multiple charges in connection with both incidents. He was charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, three counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.
The four other suspects were charged in connection with the first incident on July 23. They face the following charges:
Melissa Chircop, 35, from Toronto – Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm.
Kwesi Ellis, 38, from North York, Ont. – Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, two counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.
Julian Kulak, 32, from Newmarket, Ont. – Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, two counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.
Brandon Rees, 25, from Mississauga, Ont. – Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm, failing to stop at the scene of an accident and operating a motor vehicle on a highway without insurance.
OPP seized four motorcycles and said more arrests and charges were likely.
The five accused attended a bail hearing at Old City Hall in Toronto on Tuesday. They were all granted bail for $10,000. Under the conditions of their bail, the suspects are not allowed to drive any two- or three-wheeled vehicle and can only drive vehicles for the purposes of work. They must also abide by an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and have no contact with each other without a lawyer present. The suspects are also prohibited from contacting the family of Mauro Bustelo, the man who died in July, for any reason.
None of the allegations have been tested in court.
With files from CTV Toronto
Source: CTV News