Transit Safety Officers hailed for takedown of armed suspect

Man holding a handgun runs straight at officers outside of Union Station before being taken down

Three transit special constables are being recognized for their heroic actions in stopping an armed robbery suspect outside of Union Station last month.

Officers Stephan Fahel, 37, and Brent Strachan, 32, were wrapping up a call outside Union Station on Aug. 5 around 1 a.m. when they heard what they thought was a fight between two men.

“The other male is screaming that he had just been robbed of his chain,” Fahel said. “It all happened very quick.”

Then they noticed the suspect was running right in their direction.

Strachan lunged to tackle the man. That’s when Fahel saw a 25-caliber pistol in his hand and the victim’s chain, valued at $30,000, in the other. At that point, it was too late to warn his partner.

“I didn’t see the gun until (Fahel) called out gun,” said Strachan. “So I hit him before knowing he had a gun.”

Metrolinx Transit Safety Officers Stephan Fahel, Brent Strachan and Arjun Kapadiya patrol outside of Union Station on Sept. 13, 2018

Basic training recommends officers create as much distance between themselves and the individual any time there is a weapon in play. Both officers admit in this case, they didn’t have the luxury of creating space with the suspect running right into them.

“Basically we tackled an armed suspect that had a handgun pointed right at my chest,” said Fahel.

In addition to a loaded gun, the officers also had to take into account the growing crowds. It was a long weekend, and not only was Front Street jammed with Caribbean Carnival revellers and music lovers from VELD Music Festival, but the alleged robbery happened next to a packed patio set up in the Union Station plaza.

Fellow transit safety officer Arjun Kapadiya was the first to respond to his colleagues’ request for help. The three officers were able to subdue the suspect with their batons. The victim, an American tourist, and the officers were uninjured. Toronto Police attended and took custody of the suspect, who later required eight stitches to his head.

“I thought they did exceptionally well,” said Staff Sgt. Dave Durant, senior supervisor of Transit Safety Operations for Metrolinx. “We’re all very proud of them.”

Durant said although the outside of Union Station is the jurisdiction of Toronto Police, transit officers have the authority to make criminal arrests and hold suspects until police arrive.

Weapons calls are becoming increasingly frequent for transit safety officers. So far this year, Metrolinx officers have responded to 10 weapons-related calls, two involving someone pointing a gun at an officer or member of the public.

“That’s where the training kicks in, because you really don’t have time in some instances to think about what you’re going to do. You react,” Durant said. “Training is so important.”

Metrolinx employs 84 front line special constables and 12 operational sergeants.  New recruits receive three months of in-class training following by three months operational training. They are equipped with a baton and a foam version of pepper spray.

Despite the accolades, all three officers brush off any notion they did anything but their job. They just wish guns weren’t part of it.

“Guns in this city are very real,” Fahel said. “I’ve been very much a part of law enforcement in this city for a long time, so I’m not surprised that this has happened.”

Strachan, Fahel and Kapadiya were officially recognized for their actions at the Sept. 14 Metrolinx board meeting.