A 48-hour standoff between Port Alberni RCMP and a mentally distraught man who climbed a tree on North Park Drive and refused to leave has ended tragically.
A neighbour called police on Friday, Aug. 27 after they were walking their dog at 8 a.m. and a man in a nearby tree spoke to them.
“The male had tied a noose, placed it around his neck and was highly agitated,” Port Alberni RCMP Sgt. Peter Dionne said in a press release. An RCMP crisis negotiator engaged with the male for several hours, however the male did not want to work with police and said their presence upset him.
Emergency officials were on scene all day Friday and into the night attempting to coax the man out of the tree, as were family members, local mental health support staff that knew him and friends, but they were unsuccessful. “RCMP high angle specialists attended and spoke with the male who insisted he was not suicidal, however he refused to come down,” Dionne noted.
The man was perched approximately 14 metres (45 feet) up a tree behind the Port Alberni Friendship Center.
“Resources were removed from the immediate area in hopes the male would come down on his own. It appears he did so but returned with more equipment the following morning and returned to the tree.”
The crisis negotiator could not come to an agreement with the man, who had rigged up a delivery system to have people provide supplies to him. “He insisted he had no intention to harm himself and removed the noose, but remained in the tree,” Dionne said.
Resources were withdrawn due to the man’s agitation with police presence, with hopes he would climb down again.
North Park Drive, the access road to the Quadrant at Fourth Avenue and Napier Street and parking lots into the Port Alberni Friendship Center were blocked off all day Saturday. At least one unmarked police car could be seen in the vicinity, observing the man’s movements. A neighbour said other cars patrolled the area regularly.
Early Sunday morning BC Ambulance, Port Alberni Fire Dept. and the RCMP responded to render emergency care to the male, transporting him to West Coast General Hospital, but he succumbed to his self-inflicted injuries.
A neighbour, who did not want to be identified, said police maintained some sort of presence all weekend.
Mya Driver, who knew the victim for 20 years, said she feels more support should have been available for the man to deal with his addiction and mental health issues. She and two other people who knew him sat under the tree for several hours Saturday night trying to pursuade him to get down, but he refused. A family member came by Saturday night and sent food up via rope, and someone else provided him with cigarettes.
Driver said the man had actually been in the tree since Thursday, but RCMP were unable to confirm that. “I feel people failed him,” she said.
The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) investigated the incident, Dionne said, but will not be publishing a report. The RCMP will not be disclosing the deceased’s name.