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Top cop defends response to call from Burnaby dad who tracked down suspect with baseball bat

Police say 911 operator not told suspect had tried to lure child or that dad was detaining suspect with baseball bat
Simon Fraser Hills Park (a.k.a. Peanut Park)

Burnaby’s top cop is standing behind the RCMP’s response to complaints of a stranger allegedly offering drugs to two children and inviting them into his car by Simon Fraser Hills Park.

That incident last Wednesday (March 31) saw the father of a 10-year-old boy track down the suspect with a baseball bat, drag him out of his car and detain him while waiting for the police to come.

The dad, Mike, who didn’t want his last name published because he has heard the suspect has gang connections, told the NOW he waited for an hour-and-a-half and the police never showed up.

He said the 911 operator eventually told him to take down the suspect’s description and licence plate number and the police would handle it.

A few days later, on April 4, the suspect returned to the park with a group of other young men carrying what looked to neighbours like real handguns and a rifle, which they reportedly fired off in the park near the playground.

When reports of guns (which turned out to be airsoft weapons) came in, Burnaby RCMP responded in force – dispatching seven officers, two supervisors and a K9 unit – and arrested the suspect, an 18-year-old Burnaby resident.

A NOW story about the incidents unleashed a flurry criticism online blasting the RCMP’s response to the original March 31 call.

“Why don’t the cops come?” wrote Suzanne Bingham on the Burnaby NOW Facebook page. “Unbelievable bad; maybe we should get rid of the RCMP and have a city police like everyone else that is fed up with them.”

Abdu Al Jarsha wrote, “It's very disappointing to see RCMP isn't available to deal with these crucial issues, which deal with the safety of our children and their upbringing to prevent them from being criminals in the future or drug consumers.”

But the Burnaby RCMP has reviewed the 911 calls, and Supt. Graham de la Gorgendiere, the officer in charge of the local detachment, said he believes the call was “dispatched appropriately” based on the information provided to 911 operators at the time.

First, rather than taking an hour-and-a-half, police said an officer was dispatched to the scene in less than one hour.

And, during the 911 call, police said Mike did not report that the suspect had tried to lure a child, that Mike had dragged the suspect from his car or that he was detaining him with the help of a baseball bat.

Police said he reported only that a man in his 20s was “smoking weed” in his vehicle after having offered marijuana to Mike's 10-year-old son and a female classmate.

“Had further information been provided, our police response would have been assessed based upon that additional information and may have differed,” de la Gorgendiere said in an emailed statement. “Although I do not dismiss the seriousness of offering marijuana cannabis to a child, police had no information to suggest anyone was in imminent danger. With the description of the suspect and licence plate number, the investigator was able to identify the suspect and visit his home later that evening.”

Burnaby RCMP media spokesperson Cpl. Brett Cunningham contrasted last Wednesday’s response to actions taken by police Sunday, when 911 operators were told of guns in the park.  

“This prompted a high-priority response,” he said. “With the potential for injury or loss of life, police were re-routed from other calls to respond to the park.”

But Mike is adamant he had made the urgency of the March 31 situation clear to the 911 operator.

“I would like to hear that call,” he said. “That’s ridiculous … I told the 911 operator that this guy that I had just dragged out of his car with a baseball bat tried to get my son and his girlfriend-classmate into his vehicle to smoke drugs with him. That’s exactly what I said.”

Mike said he also texted an officer who gave him his number after responding to the call later on Wednesday.

He said he was looking to reassure his son while tucking him into bed.

“After all this craziness calmed down my son has expressed that he’s very scared that this guys is going to come looking for him so I was hoping after you are able to get to him if you could please follow up with me so I can let my son know you have handled it and he’s got nothing to worry about,” stated a text sent by Mike at 9:18 p.m. that night.

He said he has yet to get a response from the officer.

The 18-year-old suspect faces firearm and uttering-threat charges, as well as charges under the Cannabis Control and Licencing Act, according to RCMP.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor