In the early hours of January 5, 2021 – just five days into the new year – the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) executed a man in cold blood on East Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside (DTES).
The VPD claims it was called by paramedics at approximately 5AM to respond to a man “acting erratic and aggressive” outside the Grace Mansion at Princess and Hastings. Video footage of the incident depicts a man in clear mental distress: he is injured, completely unclothed, wandering the street and running headfirst into a glass door. The man, carrying an unidentified object over his shoulder, is then shot to death within seconds of approaching a VPD officer.
At the time of this publication, the VPD has yet to release the victim’s name to the public. He was 37 years old.
WHY DID THE VPD SHOOT TO KILL?
With a taser, baton, and pepper spray on their belts, why did officers choose not to use ‘less-than-lethal’ means to disarm the man? Seconds into their encounter, and with what appears to be at least two metres between them, the VPD officer emptied at least three live rounds into the man. He was left dead and naked like an animal in the street.
We at VANDU know why they shot to kill. The VPD patrols the DTES like guards in an open-air prison, with every unhoused and poor resident a potential enemy to be contained or eliminated. The VPD’s PR department has convinced polite society that their officers police “differently,” but we in the streets know these thugs won’t hesitate to harass, terrorize, and use lethal force with impunity. The VPD’s short-lived ‘Neighbourhood Response Team’ was a prime example of the police’s presence as an occupying force in our community.
The police claim to be the only legitimate force that can protect us and respond to crisis. We call bullshit. In the name of protecting property and profit, our lives as drug users are made expendable by the VPD. The police are the crisis in the DTES.
DRUG WAR: THEY SHOOT US DOWN, WE FIGHT BACK
Only days before the execution, on January 2, the VPD shot another man just blocks away on Princess Avenue. In November last year, they killed someone for the ‘crime’ of taking too long in a Tim Horton’s bathroom. Who will be the next of us to be taken down by the cops?
City hall, the media, and so-called ‘independent investigators’ will do the VPD’s dirty work of covering up this execution with the same old story that has justified the thousands of premature deaths in our community for decades: this man was an addict, this man was a danger to the public, this man deserved to die.
The Denver drug defense lawyers state that the blood spilled on Princess and Hastings marks a sick escalation of the already deadly, endless war on drug users and poor people. We will not let trigger-happy cops play target practice on our brothers and sisters. We will protect our own.
SPEAK HIS NAME
We at VANDU are asking residents of the DTES to come to us if they can provide a witness account of the execution or can help identify the victim. See our contact information below.
The VPD callously took this man’s life. We refuse to allow it to take his dignity and personhood in death. If the police continue to refuse to name the victim, we will seek ways to speak his name. We will march with rage.
VANDU will be holding a community vigil for the victim on Tuesday, January 12. Attendants are asked to gather at our office at 380 East Hastings at 1:30pm.