Hours before a man was found dead in South Surrey’s Bakerview Park last summer, he called his mother.
“He told her that he was beaten up, that he was OK and that he would talk to her again,” the man’s father told Peace Arch News this month. “We’re still trying to find out what happened.”
Passersby found the 35-year-old’s body at around 8 p.m. on July 25. In announcing the discovery, police said the deceased was “known to police as a local homeless man.”
“He may have been camping in the park,” the Surrey RCMP spokesperson told PAN the following day.
Five months later, the man’s father said he remains frustrated by the information that police released about his son – describing it as inaccurate and “so degrading.”
“He had an address… He wasn’t homeless. He’s had problems, he was in drug treatment,” he said, noting his son was found among another person’s belongings.
The father – who asked that his family’s identity not be made public – said his son grew up in White Rock and attended both White Rock Elementary and Semiahmoo Secondary, had started a job as a framer shortly before his death, and “had been working very, very hard for six months to get rid of his drug habit.”
He said he was initially told his son died of an overdose, but he has doubts.
A spokesperson with the B.C. Coroners Service told PAN this month that investigation is ongoing; cause of death will be released publicly once it is complete, about two weeks after family has been notified.
“We do keep in touch with next of kin listed as investigations progress,” Andy Watson, spokesperson for the coroners office, said, describing that aspect as “a key component of what we do here.”
The man’s father, a former White Rock resident who now calls Vancouver Island home, said he is further frustrated by the difficulty he’s had gaining access to police records regarding his son.
Online court records date back to December 2007, with charges over the years ranging from ‘possessing weapon for dangerous purpose’ and uttering threats, to break-and-enter, assault with a weapon and possession of stolen property over $5,000. A stay of proceedings on the latter charge – which was sworn in August 2015 – was granted nearly a month after the man’s death.
“We want to know that our son was treated properly,” the father said. “We don’t think he has been.”
The last family member to see the man alive was his grandfather, who dropped him off in Surrey at around 6 p.m. July 25.
“He went to McDonald’s, and then he went for a walk in the park. And that’s as much as we know,” the father said.
The father said family members are not convinced the cause of death was an overdose, though they’ve been told it’s not believed his physical injuries – a broken nose and “lots” of bruises and contusions” – were enough to cause death.
“Every day, I try to reconcile with myself: how do drugs fit, knowing my son had little money… that day; who assaulted our son; and who is the owner of the belongings that were found at the scene?” he said.
The father wanted to comment publicly “for all families” on the frustration of trying to help an adult child who is struggling with addiction. “We’re not entitled to participate,” he said.
Available options, he said, are difficult to track down – describing “several hours” of near-fruitless online research – and expensive, noting a treatment program that his son completed cost $13,000 and “didn’t do him much good.”
“I don’t know what the solutions are, but when an individual is homeless and is high on drugs, there has to be something done that is more than sending them to jail to sober up, then releasing them back to the street,” He said.
“There’s nowhere for these people to go. That’s frustrating beyond belief.”