Homeless in Vancouver: Hey police…why so much killing?

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      As the latest victim of of a fatal shooting by Vancouver police is identified, people are rightly questioning why our police even drew a gun on the man.

      Yes, he was holding a two-by-four, but no accounts suggest he ever threatened anyone. And an eyewitness account says he was no threat when police shot him.

      Unfortunately, Saturday’s shooting appears to be part of a 21st century trend in Canadian law enforcement to “shoot first and ask questions later”.

      We need to find out why police in Vancouver and across most of Canada are killing more people than ever before.

      The terrible optics of "gun versus 2×4"

      According to press reports, the B.C. Coroners Service said in a statement on Monday (November 24) that 51-year-old Phuong Na (Tony) Du of Vancouver was shot “during an encounter” with Vancouver police. The incident took place at approximately 5 p.m. on November 22 near the intersection of Knight Street and East 41st Avenue.

      The man “died soon after arrival at hospital”, according to the statement.

      The fact that has gripped everyone’s attention is that Du was armed with nothing more than a than a length of wooden two-by-four.

      An eyewitness statement published by CTV News paints a hurried sequence of events.

      • Police arrive
      • The man walks towards them brandishing the two-by-four
      • An officer fires two shots at the man from a non-lethal bean-bag gun
      • The man ends up (apparently still standing) in the middle of the intersection
      • One officer uses his gun to shoot the man
      • The man falls and stays down

      The witness said that the man didn’t appear to be much of a threat and that police fired on him right away.

      Constable Brian Montague told CTV News that a two-by-four could be considered a weapon that can cause life-altering injury or death.

      British Columbia’s police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, and the B.C. Coroners Service are conducting an investigation of the fatal shooting.

      Canadian police increasingly shoot to kill

      According to Wikipedia’s list of killings by law enforcement officers in Canada, in the last 82 years, Canadian police officers have shot and killed no less than 75 people in the line of duty.

      Ontario leads all provinces with 35 killings and British Columbia is second with 13. Quebec at 11 is the only other province to record double-digit killings by police. With the exception of one in New Brunswick, the Maritime provinces have never recorded a death by police officer, according to the Wikipedia collation at least.

      The striking fact in the numbers is how dramatically police killings in Canada have increased since the year 2000.

      With the exception of Saskatchewan, the majority of all fatal shootings by police in Canada since 1932 have occurred in the last 14 years, since the year 2000.

      An average of 58 percent of the killings have occurred in only 17 percent of the time period.

      Of the 13 total deaths Wikipedia records for British Columbia, over 69 percent of them (nine) have occurred since the year 2000. And actually it’s 76.9 if you include the shooting death by Vancouver police on Saturday.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.




      Nov 25, 2014 at 4:05pm

      I think that since the War on Terror arrived, and the War on Gangs mounted in the last decade, police services arew trained to shoot first at the slightest thought of being attacked. Not to mention that Canadian Police Forces have recently had a wave of retirement from seasoned officers. Now it's a new generation of gung ho officers, who seem to never have been mentored.


      Nov 25, 2014 at 4:07pm

      I really hope that the trend of using body cameras catches on among law enforcement officers for their sake and for ours.

      I will speculate, that with the training they have today, officers don't just "shoot first." They probably yell at the person to get down, first. If the person does not comply, then things go from very serious to very very very serious.

      I understand that the optics of piece of wood vs. gun looks bad, but policing isn't a safe occupation. FBI stats (LEOKA) indicates that about 1770 federal (only) officers were assaulted in the line of duty in 2013.

      As for being unarmed, there is always at least one gun at the scene; officers can and have been disarmed by suspects. That would be a pretty bad scenario.

      None of this is to defend police brutality of course. I believe in professionalism and restraint because that is the tacit contract between the citizen and the police, the latter having the legal monopoly on violence.

      I also believe that police forces have to rethink their embrace of black tac clothing, PDWs, and hiring ex-military. Officer Friendly should wear a tie and a blue shirt and know the people on the block. That's community policing, which is far more than "enforcement."

      But in a specific situation, will people who seem threatening and don't lie face down on command get shot by cops? Yes, they will.


      Nov 25, 2014 at 4:42pm

      BTW that is an intense graphic - is it Woodbine? Strong image.


      Nov 25, 2014 at 4:48pm

      Don't worry, the cops are investigating themselves.


      Nov 25, 2014 at 5:20pm

      @ RUK

      How do we not know that the man killed could even speak English? A officer yelling at him, telling him to drop the 2x4, maybe he did not understand this? If so, then the communication error led to a killing.

      James Blatchford

      Nov 25, 2014 at 7:49pm

      This incident is a disgrace to the VPD and they know it. Heads should roll.


      Nov 25, 2014 at 8:26pm

      Since 1922 there have been 40 deaths in the UK as a result of Police action. I don't question why Police are armed in Canada but just make the observation that if you have a gun on your hip you are a lot less likely to stop and negotiate and much more likely to bring a conflict to a quick conclusion. Also if you have more guns in circulation you are a lot less likely to be able to get away with simple negotiation.


      Nov 25, 2014 at 8:48pm

      The VPD are descending ever deeper into the military thug mentality... just look at those new all black uniforms they recently unveiled. Real community look there fellas. Reminds me what the Stasi were like. And don't even get me started as to why they need Dodge Chargers for patrol vehicles. Even the transit police now have full size paddy vans. For what? It's all in their inflated ego folks.


      Nov 25, 2014 at 11:05pm


      I don't know if the person knew English. You're certainly right about the language issue. Also, I understand that stun beanbags were deployed? Was that not enough? What are the nonlethal options that can be used before the guns come out?


      No one minds that the police have an ERT to deal with high firepower situations, hostages, and armed standoffs but the prevalence of black uniforms and the whole "tactic-cool" look suggests that the entire police force decided that they were SWAT too.

      Chris Rutka

      Nov 25, 2014 at 11:42pm

      When there is suspicion that violence or assault may have been comitted by a "civilian", the suspect is immediately seperated from any associates; isolated, and then questioned.

      It is this timely statement, made either at the scene or
      within 24 hrs if detained, that will be analysed against
      reports of witnesses, and against any evidence found or
      collected over time.

      However - when the police are suspect, they are NOT
      immediately seperated, isolated, and interrogated. Many days may pass before they are required to give their version of events, and during this period they remain apprised of the evidence as it is obtained. As they learn what events were witnessed they also discover what was NOT observed, what facts have remained undiscovered.

      This is the period when the police ask for witnesses - they need to know what information they will have to respond to, and what events appear to have gone undected; what evidence was missed, was unobtainable, or deemed inconclusive.

      Because of collaboration, plausable responses can be
      developed to the challenges they know will be made. A story can be concocted that does not contradict the evidence which will be presented, but can make full and creative use of the the areas they know have remained unknown or unobserved.

      The police can easily furnish, over time, an agreed history of events that will have them appear not culpable. In any case, as we learned after the execution of the notorious airport stapler, they can always later refuse to answer questions put to them in an inquiry, be "unable to recall" crucial events in a court of law, and may even succeed in perjury!