Family shocked that teen charged in East Vancouver sex assaults
A family member of the teenager accused in a string of sexual assaults in East Vancouver say they're shocked and the charges are completely out of character.
Richmond resident Bilali Miyonkuru, 19, is charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm and robbery in connection with three incidents that happened within a two hour span on April 26.
The young man was in Army cadets, works part time as an actor and recently co-founded a tech start-up.
Police say it doesn't appear he had a criminal record prior to his arrest Thursday.
A member of Miyonkuru's family spoke to CTV Vancouver Friday but declined an on-camera interview, fearing an online backlash.
The teen was a regimental sergeant in the army cadets, and is a "role model to everybody," the family member said.
"We are all in shock right now because that's not who he is. It's not him. His past achievements, there's lots of people supporting him," he said, adding that there may be "some misunderstanding" in people's understanding of the case.
The family member asked that people avoid rushing to judgement about their loved one.
"People should not judge him."
Miyonkuru remains in custody and is set to appear in court Monday morning.
All of the incidents happened a short distance from the Joyce-Collingwood SkyTrain station. One woman was approached by a man from behind who asked her not to move. The second victim was entering her apartment building when she was also grabbed from behind. The charges against the teen specifically are in relation to the third incident, when a 21-year-old woman was pulled into the bushes and sexually assaulted outside an unoccupied house on East 46th Avenue.
People who live in the area around the attacks told CTV Vancouver they feel safer now that someone is in custody.
"I felt it was very good news, especially for women… that [it] would give peace to most women, especially those who go out late," said Teresa Ha.
But others say their sense of safety has been shattered after the violent attacks against women.
"I’m always cautious now," one young woman said.
"I feel like there’s someone behind me, I have to look back. It’s like, so scary.”
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim