Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Downtown Eastside Man Collecting Beer Cans says Police Ignored Stabbing Victim Bleeding to Death on Street

When I read that a Vancouver Police spokesman told reporters that Tyson Edwards had been “rushed” to hospital after being stabbed around 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 1, I thought of a man collecting beer bottles and cans that night who tells a different story.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Roughly ten days after 21 year old Tyson Edwards, who was becoming a dog-trainer like his father who has worked with the dogs of Marilyn Manson and Sheryl Crow, was stabbed to death outside Richards on Richards nightclub in Vancouver, I heard Jim A. talking about how the cops hadn’t seemed too interested.  ”Are you talking about that young Black guy who got stabbed?”, I asked Jim when I overheard his conversation in the Carnegie Library on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.  I had seen the victim’s mother on the front page of the Vancouver Sun pleading for witnesses to come forward, and his father who had come up from Los Angeles standing in the background. “He was Black or East Indian,” Jim said, “It happened two weekends ago; there’s a memorial outside Richards on Richards.”  He was talking about Tyson Edwards.                                                                                                                                                                                                         Jim, a thin white guy in his fifties, who unlike some Downtown Eastsiders doesn’t make a habit of criticizing police, had been walking around downtown collecting empty beer cans and bottles.  He arrived at Richards on Richards just after Edwards was stabbed.  ”I saw him lying in the curb,” says Jim, who didn’t witness the actual stabbing. There were no police or other emergency workers there yet.  ”I felt for the guy…As soon as I saw him, I could see he needed an ambulance.  ”Take it easy”, Jim said to Edwards and then went for help. “The first thing on my mind was the guy needed an ambulance”.  As Jim walked away, he heard somebody yelling, “He’s dying, he’s dying.”               

Police examine the scene early Sunday after Tyson Edwards, 21, was stabbed to death outside Richard's on Richards in downtown Vancouver.                                                   
Photo: A VPD constable at Richards on Richards on Sunday, Feb. 1.  Edwards had been stabbed at roughly 2:30 that morning.

Jim told the doorman at Richards on Richards that there was a man who needed an ambulance. "I told the door man, the Black door man, he was the first one I told,” Jim says.  ”He just ignored me.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
“Then a cop pulled up and I said, ‘This guy needs an ambulance, he’s been stabbed in the chest and he’s bleeding; they [the people with Edwards] rolled him over, he needs an ambulance right now’.”  Jim dipped his hand into his pocket to imitate the constable’s response: “He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his radio and says, ‘I need back up.’  And he puts the radio back in his pocket.”  He didn’t call for an ambulance.                                                                                                                                                                                       
“I was kind of frantic to get an ambulance right away”, Jim says.  

Jim went up to another white male cop, “a big, bald, guy” who had just arrived, and told him that there was a guy over there that needed an ambulance right away, that he’d been stabbed in the chest.  ”He friggin’ ignored me,” Jim says.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Next Jim approached a white female cop who was talking to a civilian male; she was either checking his ID or searching him; Jim couldn't remember exactly.  He told her that there was a guy over there who needed an ambulance right away, that he had been stabbed in the chest.  But she, like the male cops, ignored him. “She was more interested in crowd control”, Jim said in a disgusted tone of voice.”                                                                                                                                                                                                           
I told at least three cops and none of them paid any attention”, Jim says.  He was clearly still upset.  I heard him telling his story to friends on three separate occasions.   

Maybe somebody had already called 911 and the police knew that an ambulance was on the way, I said.  Jim replied that he had noticed people with cell phones but, based on his estimation that “15 to 20 minutes” passed before an ambulance arrived, he speculates that they may have asked for police, not an ambulance.  ”It took so dammed long for the ambulance to get there, I couldn’t believe it.”  He said there is a building just a few blocks from there where ambulances are dispatched and he believes he could have walked over there, gotten hold of some ambulance attendants and walked back, and “would have been there faster than the ambulance.”  [Ambulance paramedics recently threatened to strike, one of their grievances being that ambulance response times are becoming slower.]                                                                                                                                                                      
Regardless of whether an ambulance was in transit, Jim believes police should have checked on Edwards right away, after being told that he had been stabbed and needed immediate medical help.  He says Edwards was obscured from the view of police by “a crowd of Black guys standing around him.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
Jim was amazed at the amount of back-up that arrived for police.  ”I’ve seen back up before but I’ve never seen so much back-up. There were cop cars everywhere, lights flashing, paddy wagons, but no ambulance.”      

                                                                    Photo:  Tyson Edwards' mother points to a photo of the two of them at his funeral in Burnaby.                                                                                                                                            

Jim was “perturbed” by the conduct of police as the victim lay bleeding on the curb and would later mention it to a journalist at the scene.  ”I told the CBC guy about it and he just laughed.  I said, ‘It’s not funny, a guy lost his life’.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
Jim readily acknowledges that he’d had a bit to drink that night. “But I wasn’t drunk,” he says. When he’s picking cans and bottles on weekends, he explained, it’s common to find a half empty mickey or bottle of wine that bar-goers have left in an alley or parking lot.  He generally sips on one while he walks around picking cans.  Jim has lived on the Downtown Eastside for 30 years and he is known as a guy who enjoys going to the Pacific or the Regent Hotel to drink beer.  But he is not known to get aggressive or nasty when he drinks.  And he’s not a drug user; he even hates marijuana.                                                                                                                                                                                                             
Before the ambulance arrived, Jim left the scene and walked around the block picking up more cans and bottles.  When he passed by Richards on Richards again, he saw that the ambulance had arrived.  ”The ambulance was there; it was behind yellow tape”, he said in a low voice.                                                                                                                                                                          There’s an old tv show in which each episode ends with a male voice saying, “There are eight million stories in the naked city, you’ve just heard one of them.”  There are also millions of sides to those stories.  You’ve just heard one of them.