Man sucker-punched, killed in Burnaby Starbucks: witnesses
Published Wednesday, August 9, 2017 6:57PM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 10, 2017 10:25AM PDT
The RCMP is facing questions about why it didn’t tell the public about a murder in a Starbucks until four weeks after it happened, in response to questions from CTV News.
Michael Page-Vincelli, 22, was fatally sucker-punched in a Burnaby Starbucks after a dispute over a cigarette got out of hand.
Witnesses told CTV News that Page-Vincelli appeared upset and lashed out at a woman who had dropped a lit cigarette on the ground.
“There was a lady sitting in the car out there. She had thrown a cigarette butt on the ground. The young man witnessed it and got very aggressive towards her,” said Steve Myers, who was sitting inside the Starbucks that day, July 12.
“Apparently he picked it up and threw it in her face,” Myers said.
Others told CTV News that the woman called to another man in the bank next door, who rushed into the Starbucks and sucker-punched Page-Vincelli.
Myers said the young man’s head hit a counter with a loud sound and the assailant took off.
“It’s surreal. You’re just having a coffee, talking with a friend, and all of a sudden someone dies in the middle of a coffee shop,” Myers said.
Page-Vincelli was rushed to hospital but passed away three days later, on July 15. The death has devastated his family, who placed a large memorial outside the Starbucks with his picture and dozens of kind notes.
Page-Vincelli’s father is among the hardest hit, said neighbour Frank Gazzola.
“There’s a lot of sadness in his eyes. He lost a piece of his heart,” he said.
In a statement to CTV News, Starbucks Canada said staff members were "shocked and saddened" by the incident, and that their thoughts were with Page-Vincelli's family.
"We have supported the RCMP in their investigation," the statement said.
Police normally announce that a murder investigation has begun, but there was no such announcement until Wednesday, Aug. 9.
Cpl. Meghan Foster said the force didn’t keep the murder to themselves for investigative reasons. Instead, she said it was because the Mounties didn’t need the public’s help.
“We had obtained evidence where we didn’t need a call to the public to help us further,” she said.
There has been no arrest – with the assailant still free – though police say they don’t think there’s a risk to the public in the case.
But Josh Paterson of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association says police need clear standards to judge what they should say and what they should keep to themselves.
“The public has a right to know” about crimes so that they can judge the effectiveness of their police forces, and to better understand crime so society can come up with ways to deal with it, he said.
“Plenty of people saw this and have questions about what went down. Generally the bias should be in favour of publicly releasing information,” he said.
Foster said other cases where the Mounties had held back information about a murder are extremely rare, but Kamloops media reported about a similar case in April.
In that case, InfoNews.ca reported that remains of a resident of the city were located in 2016, but police did not make any information public until an announcement nearly seven months later. At that time, police said in a statement that their investigation continued, that the victim's death was not considered to be random and that they believed there was no risk to the public.