The B.C. RCMP officer fatally stabbed in a Burnaby park on Tuesday had attended to tell a homeless camper he wasn’t allowed to stay there, homicide investigators say.
At Wednesday briefing, Integrated Homicide Investigation Team Sgt. Tim Pierotti said Const. Shaelyn Yang, 31, had been deployed with a City of Burnaby worker to speak with the man when an altercation broke out.
The confrontation left Yang with a fatal stab wound and the man with a gunshot wound that he is expected to survive.
“My understanding is that Const. Yang was asked to assist in notification to him that he was not permitted to be in the park. They were not there to remove him at that time, they were just there to notify him of that,” Pierotti said.
Jongwon Ham, 37, has been charged with first-degree murder, the B.C. Prosecution Service said.
Ham technically made his first court appearance Wednesday, though was not there in person as he remains in Royal Columbian Hospital. He was remanded in custody until Nov. 2. No other details were released.
However, Global News has learned Ham has a history of being arrested and charged with assault.
He was charged in February 2021 with assault and resisting a police officer in connection with an incident in Vancouver. He was released on court-ordered conditions.
Following his release from that charge, he was then arrested and charged again in March 2022 with allegedly assaulting a security guard at the food court in Vancouver’s Harbour Centre.
He was released again, and three warrants have been issued for his arrest since last month alone — the most recent of them issued just Monday.
Cathy Thompson, who lives in the neighbourhood, said Ham had lived there for about 2.5 years, and never gave off any indication of being violent.
“He seemed to be just an everyday person, … no threat to society at all,” she said. “We all just thought he was a homeless man who needed somewhere to live.”
She said she’d often seen him washing his socks in the park’s water fountain, and that he had told her he’d come to Canada from the Philippines about 3.5 years ago.
“He just said one time it is quite different here than back in the Philippines. Just the way people live, and it’s difficult finding jobs here,” she said.
“He was there throughout the winter, rainy days. … He was out there during the snow time.”
While homicide investigators pursue their case against Ham, B.C.’s civilian police watchdog will probe the gunshots that left him in hospital.
Ron MacDonald, the chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office of B.C., said Wednesday that Yang was able to discharge her firearm and shoot Ham, but it is not known how many times she fired or when she discharged her weapon — before or after she was stabbed.
“We’ve been able to gather video evidence of the incident that shows quite a bit of it, in fact all of the incident,” he said. “It’s at some distance, but it provides us with excellent information.”
Following the news of Yang’s death, Chief Supt. Graham de la Gorgendiere with Burnaby RCMP said it was the most challenging moment of his career.
“Const. Shaelyn Yang will always be remembered for her service and the sacrifice to her community will never be forgotten,” he said.
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