Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive  Feb. 1, 2010)

Picking the Bones

By Bob Cooper



In the early morning hours of January 21st, Vancouver Police answered an emergency call to a house in East Vancouver where a woman claimed she was being assaulted by her husband and their baby was present in the house.  The first constables on the scene happened to be plainclothesmen.  They were met at the doorway by the householder, 44 year old Yao Wei Wu, who speaks very little English.  Likely as a result of misunderstanding things went south and force was used to subdue Mr. Wu.  At this point it was discovered that the call had come from a suite within the house and involved the couple who lived in that suite and had nothing to do with Mr. Wu.  The offending husband was located a short time later and arrested for domestic violence.  Mr. Wu was taken to VGH for treatment of facial injuries, bruises, and abrasions.

Later that morning, Vancouver Police spokeswoman Constable Jana McGuinness said Mr. Wu had "resisted by striking out at the police and trying to slam the door, but the officers persisted in the belief that there may be a woman and child inside who could be in danger."

It was quite clear to all involved that a mistake had been made and within hours Mr. and Mrs. Wu were visited by Chief Constable Jim Chu and the Inspector in Charge of the Professional Standards unit.  The Chief was there to apologize to the Wu’s for the mistake and the Inspector was there to get some details of what had happened.  The Chief’s actions run contrary to past advice from lawyers who cautioned that apologies should be avoided as they are seen as admissions of wrongdoing and cause problems in civil court down the road.  He did it simply because it was the right thing to do.

The Chief then distanced himself from Constable McGuinness’ initial statement saying “I want to make it perfectly clear this morning that we do not stand by that statement.  This was information that was premature and released as fact when in reality only the current investigation into the matter can determine the details of what happened”.  I’d have been a little more precise on the wording but I’m quite sure that the Chief’s intention was to avoid the perception of a rush to judgment.  Unfortunately, as I’ve often said, no good deed goes unpunished.

In terms of judgment, the only ones rushing faster than certain Vancouver media outlets were a group of lawyers & activists who descended on Mr. Wu like a flock of buzzards in the desert.  And they didn’t circle very long before flying down and tucking in.  Initially this included lawyer Tommy Tao and media commentator Gabriel Yiu whose resumes have in common being failed NDP politicians.  Rather sad.  Tao was quite active in the early 90s walking Chinese gangsters through the front doors of 312 Main Street in orchestrated media events to file complaints (and raise Mr. Tao’s profile).  Both were then overtaken in the final lap in the race to judgment by a hitherto unknown lawyer named Lawrence Wong who said “The officers should be fired and if they are not fired the chief of police should resign because he’s not in control of his boys”.   No investigation needed here, he saw it on the news.

The next elections are some time away but I guess it’s never too early.

SUCCESS (a community organization staffed mainly by volunteers whose mission it is to help new immigrants fit in) facilitated a press conference with Chief Chu and Police Complaints Commissioner Stan Lowe to educate newcomers on how to file a complaint.  Gabriel Yiu, presumably indignant at someone else encroaching on his television time, publicly accused SUCCESS of siding with the police.  I’d hardly think that telling people how to complain is siding with the police.   I’ve been associated with SUCCESS over the eight years I worked Chinatown.  They were some of the nicest, most dedicated, and helpful people I’ve ever met.   His remarks are opportunistic, contemptible, and just plain sleazy.  Even for a politician.

Then, like the proverbial bad penny, up turns Cameron Ward.  Mr. Wu must have taken a speed-reading English course that allowed him to pick Mr. Ward’s name out of the Yellow Pages.  Good trick considering Mr. Ward is vacationing in New Zealand.  It occurs to me that if the ambulance taking Mr. Wu to VGH came to a sudden stop, Mr. Ward would have suffered the same injuries as Mr. Wu.  Ward quickly dashed off a letter claiming that Vancouver police officers had visited Mr. Wu in an attempt to dissuade him from hiring Mr. Ward.   Rather full of himself, I’d say.   Given the profile of this case they just wouldn’t have done this, although they’d have been doing Mr. Wu a favor if they had.  It’s a given that Mr. Wu will walk away from this with his pockets full of City cash regardless of anything Mr. Ward does.  The only difference is he’ll have to split the loot with him.  The Chief is also clever enough to realize that when someone wants to hire lawyers like Messrs. Tao, Wong, or Ward, you don’t talk them out of it.  Mr. Wu will discover soon enough that with this lot he’ll be way back in the line behind their aspirations, egos, and agendas.  Until it comes time to bill him.

A very disturbing aspect is the comments following the various news articles posted by morons whose entire knowledge of the incident is what they just read or watched.  In most cases, the spelling and grammar is instructive.  That aside, imagine reading these same posts if you took out the words ‘police’ or ‘VPD’ and substituted the words ‘Chinese’, ‘Black’, or ‘East Indian’.

Finally, on Mr. Wu’s injuries, once you get him cleaned up it’s pretty clear that his injuries are consistent with landing on a hard surface and struggling as opposed to a beating.  Unlike the other ‘experts’ who’ve already brought these cops in guilty, I base my opinion on investigating literally hundreds of assaults and making hundreds of arrests over the years.  I’m not saying that what happened to Mr. Wu isn’t regrettable or that he isn’t entitled to be compensated.  I’m just saying that this is likely a combination of Mr. Wu not realizing these guys were cops, and the cops thinking that Mr. Wu was trying to prevent them from entering which they were not only entitled, but obligated to do, and to do so quickly under the circumstances.  As any cop knows, two white guys in a Crown Victoria don’t fool too many people but in a city like Vancouver these things happen from time to time.

Not that any of this matters.  High-profile case, free publicity, and a whack of money at the end.  The buzzards will be dining out on Mr. Wu and burping for months to come.  

Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2010