Firefighter Jarrett Johns was en route to another collision that grey afternoon in March 2011. Instead, the fire truck he was driving slammed into Kimberley Schulz's black Mazda, instantly killing the Mississauga mother and wife.
After an emotional trial that hinged on the colour of a traffic light, the Toronto man was acquitted of running a red light in a Mississauga court Monday - a ruling Schulz's devastated family called "completely and utterly unacceptable."
They vowed to lobby the Ontario government for changes to the Highway Traffic Act, a law they called "toothless" in the case of fatal injuries.
"That's bull---t," yelled a family member into the courtroom after the verdict was read out. "Go live a happy life," she said to Johns.
After hearing 19 often-conflicting witness testimonies, Justice of the Peace Hilda Weiss ruled there was no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Johns ran a red light.
"In my view, there are too many unresolved conflicts and inconsistencies among the testimonies I have heard in this trial," she said.
"My ruling today does not change the fact that you have lost someone very precious to you," Weiss said to Schulz's family and friends, who filled several rows of the Ontario Court of Justice courtroom, one woman clutching a framed photo of Schulz.
The words were of little comfort to the family, who, in a prepared statement read by Schulz's husband, Rob Schulz, announced their plans to lobby for legal changes.
"The fact that this case was treated as any other running-a-red-light case, even though there was a fatality involved, is just wrong," said Rob Schulz. "If anything, this verdict proves that the Highway Traffic Act is a toothless piece of legislation that needs a major overhaul."
Schulz, 42, died instantly when the truck broadsided her car at the intersection of Britannia Rd. W. and Rodeo Dr., a few blocks from her home. The mother of a 19-year-old son had been on her way home from a hockey game.
As the verdict was read out, Johns, in his late 30s, was stoic. Outside the courthouse, he gave no comment about the verdict, saying only: "It was a tragedy."
By law, fire trucks encountering a red light must come to a complete stop before continuing.
Weiss admitted that she could not "unequivocally" say she believed the evidence of the defendant. But witnesses could not agree on who had the right of way, and whether Johns proceeded through a green light.
There were also questions about whether Opticom - an automated system for emergency vehicles that uses a sensor to cycle traffic lights to green from up to 550 metres away - was operating properly that day. If convicted, Johns would have been fined $1,000.
Toronto criminal lawyer Jonathan Rosenthal said it was evident Johns did not face a harsher charge, such as dangerous driving or criminal negligence causing death, because police didn't think they had grounds.
The charge (and the consequence, had there been a finding of guilt) is not overly harsh because his alleged crime was failure to stop at a red light, not causing Schulz's death, Rosenthal said.
"You look at the moral culpability of it," he said.