18-month house arrest for Oshawa cop convicted in hit and run that cost motorcylist his leg

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Published June 7, 2023 at 1:57 pm

A York Regional Police officer and Oshawa resident has been sentenced to 18 months house arrest for a hit and run on the border of Markham and Pickering that cost a motorcyclist his leg.

Cst. Nathan Coates joined York police back in 2005, working as uniformed patrol out of the Whitchurch-Stouffville Community Substation.

On Sep. 29, 2019, Coates was off-duty and playing in a Markham softball game during which he had drunk alcohol. After Coates left the tournament he drove his way back down Hwy. 7  in his Nissan Pathfinder. Shortly before 7:15 p.m. Coates struck Stewart Sweeney as they crossed York – Durham Line and did not stop to help.

Sweeney, then 23 of Pickering, was riding his father’s motorcycle west along the same highway. He was on his way to go rock climbing As the two vehicles approached an s-bend in the road, Coates’ SUV crossed the centre line and crashed into Sweeney, according to Justice Jonathan Dawe’s reason for judgment.

Sweeney was thrown from the bike and into the grass on the side of the road. The crash seriously injured his shoulder and leg, which had to be amputated at the knee.

Coates drove away from the scene and did not call 911. Sweeney, despite major injuries, was able to call first responders himself. It took 15 minutes for aid to reach Sweeney while he lay wounded in the grass.

Cst. Andrew Clarke found Sweeney at 7:30 p.m. and testified Sweeney’s injured leg was “totally messed up.” The bones below his knee had completely shattered in the crash. It was initially amputated below the knee, but Sweeney had to undergo another amputation later above the knee so he could wear a prosthetic.

Shortly after Clarke found Sweeney, a driver stopped at the crash site to tell Clarke he had seen Coates’ damaged Pathfinder a few kilometres down the road into Pickering. The passer-by reported Coates was “hammered.” Cst. Pavol Zec found Coates, who Zec recognized as a fellow officer, around 8 p.m. and arrested him.

Zec did not demand a breathalyzer test from Coates on his arrest, saying he planned to do it later. Following a mix-up at the police station, the police didn’t take a breath sample until 9:30 p.m. more than two hours after the crash. When finally tested Coates blew over at 140 mg/ml of blood. The legal limit is 80 mg/ml.

Coates was initially charged with impaired operation causing bodily harm, ‘over 80′ causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing bodily harm, and failure to stop at an accident. He was ultimately held overnight until a bail hearing. Following his arrest, Coates was suspended with pay.

However, Dawes later found the delay in taking the breath sample violated Coates’ Charter Rights as it was taken after Coates’ call with duty council. As a result the breathylizer findings were excluded from evidence.

Member’s of Coates’ softball team, called the Major League Drinkers, testified he had a beer and some rum mixed with Gatorade during the game, but that he didn’t seem impaired when he left. The team includes Fernando Su, another York police officer.

Withouth the breathylzer test though, Dawes found found reasonable doubt that Coates was driving impaired and acquited him of the impaired driving  charges and the  dangerous driving charge.

Dawes did convict Coates of failing to stop after an accident and render assistance. On Jun. 5, 2023, Dawes handed down Coates’ sentence of 18 months of house arrest and a 30-month driving ban.

Following his sentencing, Coates’ pay was also suspended following a nearly four-year suspension with pay. York Police Constables make between $72,ooo and $105,000 annually depending on their class.

Coates will be on house arrest until December 2024 and is now subject to further charges under the Police Services Act.

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