On a sunny spring afternoon earlier this year, a young man was driving down a residential street in London, Ont., when a car pulled up beside him at a stop sign. The driver, a complete stranger, pulled out a gun and shot him in the face, police say.
The 21-year-old victim, whose identity has not been released, survived the impact of the bullet that bruised his cheek, shattered his teeth, fractured two vertebrae and exited from the right side of his neck. Police haven’t identified the driver, who they say fled the scene after the May 11 incident.
Three months later, leads have dried up, and now London Police Service has taken the rare step of offering a $10,000 reward to anyone with information that helps them arrest and convict the suspect.
This is one of about half a dozen rewards they’ve offered in the past decade, saving them for the most serious cases, said Det. Insp. Paul Bastien.
He hasn’t seen an incident like this in his 22 years of service.
“In my memory there’s nothing quite like this that comes to mind — a shooting on the roadway, the victim and suspect not known to each other,” Bastien told HuffPost Canada.
It’s fair to characterize it as road rage, he said.
There are no words to express how terrifying it was to learn our son had been shot in the face.
At about 4 p.m. on May 11, the victim was driving home from work, when he encountered a white 2014 Chevrolet Cruse, said police.
The Cruze was driving fast, erratically and aggressively, police said. In response, the young man made a gesture — he held up his middle finger according to local media reports — and kept driving. That’s when police say the Cruze pulled up alongside his car, and the driver fired the shot.
The victim was rushed to hospital.
His parents learned what had happened when police knocked on their door, they said in a statement read by a detective at a news conference Thursday. The victim’s family has not spoken publicly.
“All of our lives have been turned upside down, in the blink of an eye, because of this horrifying event,” his parents wrote.
“There are no words to express how terrifying it was to learn our son had been shot in the face. And there are no words to describe the compulsion we felt as parents to get to the hospital as fast as possible with panicked thoughts about what we might see.”
They said at first they didn’t know if their son would survive.
“We were helpless watching our son lay in a hospital bed, unable to make any of his pain and fear go away.”
They described him as caring, compassionate and hardworking. He was advancing his career and enjoying life. “His is now enduring pain on a daily basis,” his parents said. He’s at home and continues to receive treatment.
“It is unknown to all of us whether, or if, this will end.”
A week following the shooting, Police reported they’d seized the Cruze from a residence about a three minute drive away. The only description they have of the suspect is that he’s in his 20s, with a slim to average build. He may no longer be in London, Ont.
“We understand that’s not a whole lot for people to go on,” said Bastien.
Watch: Other road rage incidents in Canada. Story continues below.
The public has been confused about how police could identify the car, but not the driver, Bastien said. However, it’s not as simple as identifying who owns the vehicle.
“In some cases, I don’t want to speculate on this case, people share a car, or don’t have as tight control of who drives their vehicles,” Bastien said.
The case has been challenging for investigators because they’re relying on what the victim and other witnesses saw based on fleeting glances and looking through closed, tinted windows, which “all impact someone’s ability to get a full description,” he said.
Since the reward was announced yesterday, however, police have been contacted by a number of people and received some tips, said Bastien.
Anyone with information in relation to this incident is asked to call Krygsman of the Major Crime Section of the London Police Service at 519-661-5674, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.