To hear Mayor Rob Ford tell it, a journalist from an unfriendly newspaper was spotted taking pictures over his backyard fence with a smart phone.
To hear the Toronto Star's reporter tell it, the mayor rushed at him with his "fist cocked," while the journalist was on public property researching a story about a parcel of parkland Mr. Ford and his wife want to buy so they can – ironically – erect a perimeter security fence.
Toronto police are still investigating, and so far, no charges have been laid.
The altercation is the latest to unfold at Mr. Ford's modest Etobicoke bungalow, a place that has become a kind of ground zero for bizarre confrontations between the mayor and the media. And like the mayor's infamous run-in with a CBC comedienne before it, Wednesday night's incident has captivated a city that can't seem to get enough of the mayor's feuds with those who cover him, particularly the Star.
In an interview at his home, Mr. Ford told The Globe and Mail that he feared a "peeping Tom" when a neighbour, Zdravko Gagro, alerted him to someone close to their back fences between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
The neighbour spotted Daniel Dale standing on cinder blocks and peering over the fence to take pictures of the yard with a BlackBerry, the mayor alleged.
Mr. Ford went storming out, taking the long way around to block the man's escape, and was "shocked" to find Mr. Dale.
"What are you doing taking pictures of my backyard for a piece of land here?" the mayor recalled, standing on the land he hopes to purchase. "You can't even see the spot from where he was standing. You can see my bedroom."
The spot where the mayor and his neighbour said they saw Mr. Dale was public property behind the back corner of the Fords' Etobicoke house. The land in question is by the street, at the diagonal opposite end of the property.
Mr. Dale told reporters that he didn't take any pictures of the mayor's backyard or stand on cinder blocks to get a better look over the fence.
"I never did that. I never saw cinder blocks on this public parcel of land until I watched CP24 last night," he said outside Toronto Police's 22 Division, were he spoke with officers Thursday afternoon.
"I do not have the agility to balance on such cinder blocks. I certainly did not try. I stood on nothing but grass the whole time. I never peered over the fence."
In a first-person account posted to the Star's website Wednesday night, Mr. Dale wrote that the mayor screamed at him and demanded he drop his cellphone and tape recorder, which he did.
"At some point, perhaps 10 or 15 seconds into the encounter, [Mr. Ford]cocked his fist near his head and began charging at me at a full run," Mr. Dale wrote. "I began pleading with him, as loud as I could, with my hands up, for him to stop."
The land Mr. Ford and his wife are interested in buying is an irregularly shaped parcel of roughly 250 square metres located beside – not behind – the mayor's home on Edenbridge Drive.
The Fords want to erect a wider security fence to better protect their son and daughter, according to an April 27 letter to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority's executive committee, which will begin considering the request at a meeting Friday.
"Our primary concern is the safety of Douglas and Stephanie, our two young children, having a secure area to play," the Fords say in the letter. "The addition of this parcel of land to our property would allow us to install a better security fence that will help to enhance the safety of our children."
Private citizens rarely ask to buy TRCA land, said Jim Dillane, the authority's director of finance and business services.
Mr. Ford has asked that Mr. Dale be removed from the city hall beat. The mayor has also threatened to halt any scrums Mr. Dale attends.
The Star's management said it has no intention of reassigning the journalist.