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‘A lot of love to give’: Man killed at Oppenheimer Park mourned as tireless community advocate

Click to play video: 'Friends honour memory of man murdered in Oppenheimer Park' Friends honour memory of man murdered in Oppenheimer Park
WATCH: Friends honour memory of man murdered in Oppenheimer Park – Jan 6, 2020

Friends and loved ones of the man killed in a brutal assault in Vancouver’s Oppeheimer Park last week are remembering him as a compassionate, loving man who dedicated his life to serving the community.

Police say Jesus Cristobal-Esteban, 62, was violently attacked in the park that’s been home to an entrenched homeless camp for more than a year on New Year’s Day, and died in hospital the day after.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver’s first homicide in Oppenheimer Park' Vancouver’s first homicide in Oppenheimer Park
Vancouver’s first homicide in Oppenheimer Park – Jan 3, 2020

On Monday, dozens of people gathered for a memorial at the Watari Counselling and Support Services Society, an organization Cristobal-Estaban had poured endless hours into since his arrival in Canada from Guatemala more than 25 years ago.

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READ MORE: Fatal assault in Oppenheimer Park marks Vancouver’s first homicide of 2020

“He was an inspiring person,” said Ingrid Mendez, executive director of Watari.

Mendez, who knew Cristobal-Esteban for about 20 years, said he did not live in the park, but visited regularly as a volunteer.

She said he’d established a garden in Oppenheimer Park, volunteered at community kitchens, had led several park cleanups and even organized a Day of the Dead celebration there.

“Jesus was an extraordinary human being. He was the kind of person that wanted to help, to support people, his community,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Calls for an injunction increase after death at Oppenheimer Park' Calls for an injunction increase after death at Oppenheimer Park
Calls for an injunction increase after death at Oppenheimer Park – Jan 4, 2020
“If he was asked to be part of an event, either for migrant workers, for families [or] for the whole community, he was there first.”
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READ MORE: After Oppenheimer Park homicide, homeless camp pushes back on safety concerns

Friend Jill Scott called Cristobal-Estaban a “good man” who had a “huge” impact on the community.

“He was here for everything, just was the first person to step up and volunteer and just laugh. Laughing all the time,” she said.

Mendez said Cristobal-Esteban is survived by his children in Guatemala, cousins in the Metro Vancouver area, and a romantic partner in Vancouver who she said is struggling with his death.

Vancouver police said they continue to investigate the homicide, but had no update to provide on Monday.

Cristobal-Esteban’s death has renewed the call by some for an injunction to clear the homeless camp from the park. Police have repeatedly called the park a “magnet” for criminal activity and said a “direct nexus” exists between it and growing violent crime in the Downtown Eastside.

Park supporters, however, have said there’s no use moving the homeless out of the park until there is safe, stable, long-term housing for the campers rather than just homeless shelters.

Campers have also called on the city to add resources to the encampment to make it safer, including warming tents and washrooms.

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