Members of Kamloops’ homeless population say their interactions with security guards around a city storage facility for the homeless on West Victoria Street are generally cordial — though some in uniform could stand to be more considerate and personable.
Kamloops Mounties are investigating after a video surfaced showing a security guard kicking a man who was on the ground in a space next to the storage facility at West Victoria Street and First Avenue. The incident occurred on Match 17.
Lapper Entertainment and Security, which employed the guard and has been contracted to patrol the downtown area for the past eight months, also launched an investigation and is awaiting input from police.
The video, which surfaced online this week and was shown on CFJC-TV’s website, shows about 25 seconds of an altercation between a man in a red jacket and the Lapper security guard, who appeared to be ordering the man out of a no-loitering. The man is heard swearing at the security guard.
The security guard then appears to wrestle the man to the ground, stand up and kick him three times while he’s on the ground. Amidst the scuffle, obscenities such as, “You mother f**ker” and “I’ll beat the f**k out of you” can be heard.
A bystander then approaches the guard from the rear and the guard tells the bystander to back off. The man on the ground gets up and tells the guard, “You’ve got no right to touch me like that” and the woman filming the video from across the street yells, “That is not OK” before the clip ends.
Kamloops RCMP Const. Crystal Evelyn said police initially responded to the assault at about 5:15 p.m. on March 17 and have since gathered more video of the incident.
“At the time, police were informed that a security guard had been spat at and pushed by an unknown man, resulting in the guard taking physical action,” Evelyn said, noting that officers attended, spoke to those in the area and patrolled the area. The man involved in the altercation with the security guard was not found, but has been identified by police, who are trying to find him.
People can often be found hanging out in that no-loitering area at the side of the storage facility and KTW spoke with five such homeless individuals on Wednesday (March 24), asking about their experiences with security patrolling that spot.
Michael Roy, 38, who has lived along the Thompson River for the past seven years, said he hangs out in the no-loitering area every day.
He said there is generally an understanding between Lapper security guards and the homeless to move along when they come by, but noted guards tend not to bother people unless they’re blocking the sidewalk.
He said there can be miscommunication at times, however, with security telling people to move out of that area when, in fact, the reason they are there isn’t to simply loiter, but to charge their cellphones or wait to use the facility’s showers.
“It’s supposed to be a safe place where I can come and feel safe that I don’t have to leave, because everywhere we go out here in the community, we’re told to hurry up and get out,” Roy said.
He feels Lapper security guards tend to lump everyone who hangs out in that spot into the same group of troublemakers, suggesting they should be more considerate of everyone.
He said the way people are told to move along is key, too, adding that, at times, vulgar language is used.
“If I tell you to get the f**k out of here, that’s not very nice, right?” Roy said. “But, you know what, everybody has a bad day. Same thing with people on the street. Their language gets vulgar more times than not.”
He suggested Lapper hire someone who has lived on the street to help improve communication with the homeless.
“It’s hard for people to listen to somebody who hasn’t lived that life,” Roy said.
While his interactions with Lapper are cordial, Roy said he has had disagreements regarding their jurisdiction along the route outside businesses.
Marie Leeson, 37, who also frequents the spot next to the storage facility, said she wasn’t surprised to hear about the alleged assault, having seen violent altercations elsewhere in town, but she hasn’t seen people get violent around the storage facility. She said her interactions with security guards keeping people from loitering there have generally been good.
“Normally, they just tell us to leave,” she said.
Some guards, however, are better than others and males tend to be dealt with more aggressively than women, Leeson said.
“It’s the same as anything — there’s good and bad on both sides. There’s some great security guards, there are some that are not so great,” she said.
Brandon Fontaine, 33, who could be found sitting on the sidewalk up against the storage facility, said he hasn’t seen or experienced security staff in the area use unnecessary force.
“They just tell you to move along,” Fontaine said, adding they could stand to be more personable as people in the area are just hanging out and not committing crimes.
Bryan, 65, who did not wish to give his last name, said he hasn’t experienced violence from security guards in the area and feels cooler heads should have prevailed in the March 17 altercation.
Jason Jules, 47, who uses the storage facility, but doesn’t usually hang out in the area around the side, told KTW he tends to get along well with most security guards in town, but has heard of friends being dealt with too aggressively by Lapper security guards elsewhere.
Ed Lapierre, who owns Lapper Security, said typically one or two guards will patrol West Victoria Street. He said they face constant threats and verbal assaults from a select few individuals.
“It’s on a daily basis,” he said.
However, Lapierre said, his employees generally have a good rapport with most of the marginalized population in Kamloops, noting his guards hand out food, jackets and blankets over the winter and are there to help everyone.
“No one seems to pull out a camera when they’re doing the things like handing out jackets or hot coffee to people,” Lapierre said.
Lapierre, who has spoken with the guard involved in the alleged assault, told KTW it’s unfortunate the video that came out does not show that his employee was assaulted first by being spat on in the face and pushed, leading to an escalation of the incident.
He said the company doesn’t condone its staff taking physical actions unless their lives are at risk or they are acting in self-defence.
The incident, Lapierre said, appears to be one in which the guard thought he was acting in self-defence, with adrenaline getting the better of him as he attempted to move the person out of the no-loitering area after the storage facility had closed.
Lapierre said a memo has since been sent to employees reiterating that physical confrontation isn’t condoned and they should call the authorities or management as needed.
“Nothing is worth getting injured over just to have someone leave an area,” Lapierre said.
Lapper is contracted to patrol the entirety of West Victoria Street through a multi-organizational contract involving BC Housing and the Canadian Mental Health Association, in partnership with City of Kamloops. The businesses along the route are not involved in the contract.
The security guards monitor for loitering and vandalism around businesses, pick up drug paraphernalia and stop overnight camping in the area.
Lapierre said that while area businesses haven’t hired them, his employees do patrol the properties on which they sit. They also patrol areas around bus stops and parks in town and operate a mobile patrol as part of other private contracts.
Lapper security guards, he said, undergo basic security training through the Justice Institute of B.C. and, while the guard in question isn’t new to the line of work, Lappiere said he was new to the job in the area.
He said the guard, who contacted police after the altercation, has received so many death threats since the video surfaced that he has opted to leave his position.
Police were contacted a week after initially responding to the incident regarding the video taken of the altercation.
On March 23, Evelyn said, police found and reviewed more surveillance footage, which led them to identify the man on the ground and others at the scene.
Evelyn said officers are now attempting to find and speak with the man as they want to hear his version of what happened. She said speaking with the guard involved would also be part of the investigation.
She said it’s premature to discuss any possible charges as police are still collecting information.
“If we can proceed with charges, that’s something we always consider, but right now we’re still in that investigative phase,” Evelyn said.
Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to contact Kamloops RCMP at 250-828-3000 and reference file number 2021-8861.
City of Kamloops social development supervisor Ty Helgason, who watched the video that surfaced online, said the municipality is not investigating the incident and is waiting until the RCMP conducts its investigation before taking any steps.
“Obviously, we’ll be evaluating our security practices and policies around that. We’re really waiting until we have the full picture before we action anything,” Helgason said.
Coun. Dale Bass said the incident will likely be discussed at the city’s April community services committee meeting, which she chairs. She is also expecting a report from city staff.
Having watched the video, Bass said regardless of what prompted the altercation, the guard was wrong in his reaction.
“You don’t kick people,” she said, adding she feels bad for the security guard, but noted he should have disengaged and called the RCMP.
Bass recently filed a notice of motion to have staff examine the idea of renovating the storage facility so people don’t congregate in that no-loitering area.
Staff are currently examining that idea, she said, adding steps need to be taken to address the issue as the March 17 incident could have escalated.
“Here’s the problem,” Bass said. “We roust them [homeless people] out of their tents along the riverbank and we tell them to move along and they go downtown. They hang out there and they cause problems or are just an eyesore and we tell them to move along. And, so, then they go down to that building and then they’re told to move along, but where the hell are they supposed to go?”
She said even having just a few chairs in the storage facility could help the situation.
“ I want to see more space for them to go to so they’re not on the street,” Bass said.
The storage facility is run in partnership between the City of Kamloops and the Aboriginal Friendship Society and is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days per week, except on statutory holidays. The building offers laundry service, mail pickup, storage bins, showers, harm-reduction services and client advocacy and supports.
ASK Wellness Society executive director Bob Hughes said an incident like that which occurred on March 17 can happen anywhere, noting the video clip can be used to create more conflict.
“There’s a lot of tension in the community right now around the issues of the homeless and we need to do everything we can to bridge the divide between the realities of those living without homes and their frustrations with the general public,” Hughes said.
He said ways to do that include providing opportunities for people to recover from substance abuse and obtain housing.
Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week