Two years house arrest for Oshawa man after fatal hit and run in Niagara


Published May 3, 2023 at 7:23 pm

An Oshawa man will spend the next two years under house arrest after fatally striking a cyclist with his car and fleeing the scene.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell sentenced the man, Brent Armitage, on Apr. 24. Armitage had pled guilty to failure to remain at the scene after his car struck cyclist Nino Lattanzio in Lincoln two years ago.

Lattanzio, 51, was out on his regular morning bike ride at around 7:30 a.m. on July 25, 2021. O’Donnell described the morning as “full daylight with good visibility.” Roads were “dry, straight, level and in good repair,” the Justice wrote.

However, the ride would prove his last when, as Lattanzio made his way along North Service Rd., Armitage drove up behind him. As Armitage approached Lattanzio, his sedan drifted to the left and struck the cyclist.

The impact sent Lattanzio “high up into the air” before landing on the shoulder. He suffered major injuries to his head and torso which would prove fatal, “despite the efforts of passers-by, emergency responders and the hospital.”

Additionally, the force caused “substantial and obvious” damage to Armitage’s car including to the hood and roof. The windshield was heavily damaged and “spider-webbed with cracks” across three-quarters of its width. “There can be no doubt that Mr. Armitage knew he had been in a collision,” O’Donnell concluded.

However, “to his eternal shame,” per O’Donnell, Armitage did not stop. He was later pulled over by a witness down the road. Armitage confirmed to the witness he knew he had hit Lattanzio and told them he would return to the scene. Instead, Armitage continued home to Oshawa, a 151-kilometre, hour-and-a-half-long trek.

Armitage had a “clear legal and moral obligation to remain at the scene,” O’Donnell wrote. Furthermore, Armitage did not inform police about the crash either that morning or all the next day. However, 26 hours after the crash, officers turned up at Armitage’s door. There they found the damaged car outside and Armitage inside, speaking with his lawyer.

They made arrangements for Armitage to turn himself in to the police in Niagara Falls later that day.

On the nature of Armitage’s offense, O’Donnell wrote, “Driving is the most dangerous and most highly regulated activity that most of us ever engage in. We lose sight of its omnipresent danger because it is so much part of our everyday existence… we take it for granted and we forget how much is at risk, what a horrible cost even momentary inattention could bring for us and our families and for complete strangers and their families.”

However, he noted that Armitage pled guilty specifically do failure to remain, not for for being criminally responsible the the crash itself. While he noted this distinction may not matter to Lattanzio’s family, “It matters tremendously, because I am not called on to sentence Mr. Armitage for having caused Mr. Lattanzio’s death, but rather for his decision to flee the scene.”

He maintained this remained a very serious offense on its own, however, describing it as, “leaving without knowing the nature of a victim’s injuries may leave that person suffering and perhaps dying without any human comfort and, again depending on the circumstances, leave the victim’s family with that image to haunt them in addition to the many other layers of anguish and loss they have to deal with.”

On that impact, Lattanzio’s wife, Suzana, wrote a victim impact statement to the court in which she described “her growing sense of worry as her husband failed to return from his ride and didn’t pick up on her calls to confirm when he would be home to start their day together, of driving around his usual routes looking for him, of her concern as she saw a police cruiser pull into her driveway,” per O’Donnell.

“In the aftermath of her husband’s death, she was unable to drive, unable to do anything more than the absolute minimum, unable to maintain her exercise regime and beset by nausea, headaches and stomach-aches, leading up to serious health complications.  She had panic attacks when she saw a cyclist.  She could not sleep.  She worried about her husband’s last moments, about his being left alone on the road.  She returned to work after five months and could only last two weeks,” she continued.

Finally, O’Donnell had to consider Armitage’s circumstances at the time of the crash. He has only one criminal conviction for drunk driving almost ten years ago. At the time of the crash, he was on stress leave from work due to depression and anxiety. He also suffers from sleep apnea which O’Donnell felt may explain the collision, but he noted it did not excuse Armitage’s flight from the scene.

He worked for the same employer for the 18 years prior to his leave, and is married with children. His family and co-workers all wrote positively of Armitage’s character in letters to the court. As a result O’Donnell found this “one of those especially challenging cases where a basically good person has made an awful, serious and criminal decision.”

O’Donnell decided the best balance in this case between rehabilitation and deterrence was a conditional sentence, otherwise known as house arrest, of two years less a day. During that time he must attend assessment, counselling and rehabilitative programs and served 240 hours of community service. He is banned from driving for five years after the completion of his sentence, though his license has already been suspended ever since the crash.

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