Local sports star kills 16-year-old girl and no charges are laid
Brayden Hopkins has a bright future. Turning pro and playing for Arvika Hockey Club in Sweden this season, the former captain of the Chatham Maroons and the Blenheim Blades might even apply to be a police officer one day. After serving as an auxiliary officer for the Munsee Delaware Police Service he could follow his step-father, who is an officer with the Walpole Island Police Service and his uncle who is on the Munsee Delaware Police Service, on the front lines of serving and protecting. Bailey Jacobs doesn’t have a future because Brayden Hopkins struck and killed her while driving a Chrysler 300 in Moraviantown on November 19 last year. Tanner Whiteye sits in a wheelchair at age 25, a quadriplegic, after also being hit in the same accident. A third person, Jordi Whiteye, was also hit and had minor injuries.
The OPP recently closed a 10-month investigation into the case and decided no charges would be laid. On September 15, 300 days after the accident that saw three people struck in the middle of the night, the families were called to the Brunner Centre in Thamesville to find out the results of the OPP investigation. A half-dozen OPP officials and about 30 members of both families met where it was revealed no charge would be laid.
Yolanda Whiteye, Tanner’s mother, anticipated the worst going in to the meeting. “We are not expecting anything, therefore, (we) won’t be disappointed with the outcome”, Whiteye told CKReview News days before. Whiteye was visibly upset as she entered the Brunner Centre. She could not be prepared for what she would hear. As her son watched and listened, the OPP explained how Brayden Hopkins did nothing wrong.
Alma Jacobs expected more. Jacobs was the grandmother and main caregiver to Bailey Jacobs. Before the meeting was underway the frail Jacobs said, “It is about time the investigation was completed.” When asked if anyone had ever contacted her about the death of her granddaughter, her emotions poured out. “No, not anyone”, she said as she sobbed uncontrollably and walked away. Twice during the session inside Jacobs came out of the building in tears. Her cries could be heard across the parking lot and she shook uncontrollably. After gathering herself she approached me and told me, “He has his career! My granddaughter doesn’t have her career!” Her eyes spoke of suffering and disbelief. “The OPP are on his side, not on the victims (side).” Jacobs was hopeful that charges would be laid that day. She wasn’t alone. Multiple people who left the building asked why Careless Driving wouldn’t be applicable.
When the OPP were approached prior to the start of the meeting if the media was allowed in, they were completely opposed. Three OPP officers spoke at the door and denied media access. CKReview News has a copy of an audio recording of the entire meeting, where Brayden Hopkins was mentioned by the OPP by name and his playing hockey in Sweden was discussed. The families asked the OPP why a man who is under investigation was allowed to leave the country and no explanation was provided by the police.
The unanswered questions didn’t stop there. During their presentation the OPP said that the car was going slow and their evidence was that the airbag didn’t deploy. What the families wanted answered was how a heavy-set girl, said to be over 300 pounds, could be flung over 30 feet by a slow moving vehicle. The front grill of the car was smashed according to two witnesses. No breathalyzer was taken however. Hopkins was taken that night to the Chatham-Kent OPP detachment and according to the OPP seven officers interacted with Hopkins and none of them detected alcohol or saw reason to test for it, even if multiple witnesses saw Hopkins vomit at the scene. One witness, Rhonda Whiteye who is Tanner’s aunt, was at the scene of the accident moments after it happened and she said Hopkins eyes were red and she smelled alcohol from him. Her daughter claimed Hopkins had called her home earlier that night, looking for her brother to go out drinking. Police made no mention of these accusations during their presentation.
The OPP outlined their reasons for the decision to lay no charges by saying the Crown Attorney had reviewed the case and decided there was no criminal culpability. They rested that reasoning on two main points. The car was going slow and Hopkins was not using his cell phone. They added that it was raining outside, something disputed by many witnesses who say it was misty outside and it didn’t begin to rain until later when investigators came. Tanner Whiteye said he would not be walking home in the rain. “If it was raining, we wouldn’t even be there”, he said. Police told the families that they were ready to release their findings two months ago, but were told by the Crown to investigate deeper into the cell phone usage of the driver to see if he was distracted. The OPP heard loud and clear the objections of the families. Shouts of “It’s ok, just go slow, you’ll be ok” and “What did they check for the first 8 months, the airbags?”, filled the room. The OPP said Hopkins had high-beam lights on and said because no tire marks were found that he was driving on the road. Tanner Whiteye remembers the sound of gravel behind him. “He knew who I was. He came up to me and said ‘Tanner! I am so sorry!’ and he was vomiting all over the place.”
Hopkins had reason to have a lot on his mind that night. His team lost a nail-biter only hours before the accident. The Blenheim Blades took a 3-0 lead that night and Hopkins scored for his team, they then lost 5-4 to the Dresden Kings. Hopkins took a position on the Blades, a junior C team and one level below the Maroons because according to his coach he could play for an extra year at that level. Turning pro must have sounded like a better option to Hopkins, who has yet to play for Arvika HC, but was expected to arrive to the team on September 19. His biggest concern: goals and assists.
Alma Jacobs has other concerns and sits wondering why her granddaughter’s death does not warrant a charge. Tanner Whiteye says he must be to blame for being run down from behind, “We were walking in a straight line by the side of the road when I heard the gravel.” The accident happened at 1:40 a.m. and was cleaned up by 6:30 that morning. “It must be our fault,” Tanner Whiteye said. Jacobs said no-one contacted her at any time from the OPP or the Moraviantown police. It was like Bailey Jacobs died and there was no trace, no accountability and nothing that tied Hopkins to her death. Until this article no mention of Hopkins and his involvement in this case has been published anywhere. Social media is rife with accusations of a police cover-up. The suggestion that they are protecting one of their own is hard to miss. The message was clear from the OPP. Just go home. This case is closed. They made a press release to say no charges would be filed and they send their condolences to the families. No other details were released to the public. Tanner Whiteye lay in a coma for 30 days before his mother heard from the OPP and only after she initiated contact. None of the officers who took witness testimony at the scene were in Thamesville.
The lawyer representing Tanner Whiteye, Alysia Christiaen said, “The family is very disappointed with the outcome of the investigation.” The cries surrounding us did not betray her words. One week following the OPP advising the families that there would be no charge laid Tanner Whiteye has had setbacks, including migraines and a return of the nightmares he had when he first came out of his coma.
The Special Investigations Unit told CKReview News that they only investigate incidents involving sworn police officers. The Office of the Independent Police Review Director said that they have no jurisdiction over First Nations police. Other avenues exist for the families, but they are a longshot.
A petition has been started to seek justice for Tanner Whiteye and the family of Bailey Jacobs. The petition seeks to re-open this investigation and will be sent to the Justice Minister of Ontario. You can join by clicking here to sign it. Please help these families to know how much they matter and that their loved ones count. If you don’t, who will? Certainly not the OPP or the First Nations Delaware Police.