Man shot dead by police was distressed gambling addict, coroner told
A man shot by police while waving a two by four on a Vancouver street in 2014 was arrested months before outside a Richmond casino for kicking down garbage cans and displaying homicidal thoughts, a British Columbia coroner’s inquest into the death heard Monday.
Tony Du was a “gentle giant” most of the time, but he was also a gambling addict who was banned by Lower Mainland casinos. He still found his way in to lose money, however, prompting stress and anger that added to his chronic schizophrenia, the court heard.
“He had lost all of his money, he was angry, he spent quite excessively and he felt guilty that his mother was taking care of him rather than the other way around,” said his psychiatrist, Dr. Soma Ganesan.
Du told police at the time of the Richmond incident that he had stopped taking psychiatric medications and was brought to local hospital, the inquest heard, but a report of that incident never made its way to his primary care physician.
“Taken by police because he was outside the casino kicking over garbage cans,” Vancouver lawyer Karen Liang read from the record of the incident from July 4, 2014.
“Screaming he wanted to kill someone. Police reported incoherent speech, that he said he lived in the sky. He told police he stopped taking psychiatric medications,” she read.
Du’s physician, Dr. Felix Tam, testified he was in regular contact with his patient for 25 years, through a lifelong and largely treated psychiatric disorder that was also treated by a team of psychiatrists and another psychiatrist. But Tam appeared surprised on the stand when asked about the hospital record.
“I don’t recall it. I have no knowledge of this,” he said.
Instead, Tam said it was by coincidence a few months later that he asked Du’s nephew about him.
“I was quite shocked when I heard it happened. Nine, ten months I hadn’t seen him. I asked his nephew and he said ‘my uncle got shot dead over the weekend.’ I just happened to ask on the Monday,” he said.
Du was shot dead after police were called to a scene at Knight Street near East 41st Avenue on November 22, 2014.
Ganesan said Du was a “nice guy,” but was prone to losing his temper, citing two incidents involving visits to casinos.
“He would always regret that behaviour,” the psychiatrist said. “There is an increased behavioral issue with gambling among those who are mentally ill, and the concurrent factors make people lose control and become aggressive.”
He said he had never been called by casino security about his client – but said Du would tell him what happened. He said casinos need to do more about letting doctors know about what is happening with their patients.
“This is a systemic problem,” he said.
B.C. casinos offer the “self-exclusion program” which is a voluntary way that gamblers can exclude themselves from their properties.
However, investigations have shown that the program is spotty in enforcement, and often lets addicted gamblers in anyway.