Deadly assault at Oppenheimer Park marks Vancouver's 1st homicide of 2020
VANCOUVER -- Police in Vancouver are investigating the first homicide of the year after a man was assaulted in Oppenheimer Park.
According to the Vancouver Police Department, a 62-year-old man was assaulted on Jan. 1 at about 1 p.m.
Later identified by police as Jesus Cristobal-Esteban, the man was taken to hospital by paramedics where he became unconscious. He died from his injuries on Jan. 2.
"The investigators believe that the victim and suspect had some kind of interaction before the assault occurred," said Const. Tania Visintin. "We do not have any suspects at the time, so we are asking witnesses to call police."
Those who knew Cristobal-Esteban remember him as respected member of the Latin community.
Homeless advocates said he was not a resident of the park but a daily visitor.
"His smiling face was well-known to all," said Fiona York, member of the Carnegie Community Action Plan, in a statement. "This tragic incident affects a close-knit community, with friends across many spectrums and touching many lives."
The small Downtown Eastside park has been a controversial topic in recent months, as other residents, nearby businesses and some city councillors have called for decampment in the wake of multiple violent incidents.
"The city is saddened by the death of Jesus Cristobal-Esteban, who was assaulted in Oppenheimer Park, on Jan. 1 and we extend our condolences to his friends and family," said a statement from the City of Vancouver.
"We will support VPD with their investigation in any way we can."
Oppenheimer Park is under the Vancouver Park Board's jurisdiction, which so far hasn't sought an injunction against those living in the park.
Back in September representatives from the city and its fire and police departments called for an injunction to clear out the camp, but the board voted against one. Instead, it voted in favour of collaborating with the city to find alternative housing for residents.
That request followed an announcement from the City of Vancouver that it had spent nearly $1 million on dealing with issues in the park in the first eight months of 2019.
Coun. Melissa De Genova has called for an injunction on numerous occasions.
"From day one I've been calling for an end to this," she told CTV News Vancouver Friday. "I was very concerned this may be a situation that the park board and the city finds themselves in if this encampment moved forward."
The issue of an injunction has been a divisive topic at the park board with some commissioners vocal about supporting a decampment while others do not believe it is the best course of action.
Commissioner John Irwin said he was troubled by news of the homicide but it did not change his position on whether an injunction is needed.
"I still feel the best solution is to house people properly in temporary modular housing or whatever social housing can be found," he told CTV News. "I don’t think just enforcing an injunction and moving them off into other parts of the city, other parts of the streets, is any kind of a solution."
In early December, however, park board commissioners agreed to a conditional injunction calling for certain conditions to be met including having a third party brought in to assess the situation.
Anyone with information about the New Year's Day incident is asked to contact Vancouver's homicide detectives at 604-717-2500. Tips can also be sent anonymously through Crime Stoppers.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Kendra Mangione