COLUMN: Patience is prudent
It will be some time before we know the full details of the tragic events of last Wednesday night (March 2).
Twenty-eight-year-old Adam Purdie died in what was likely a gunfight, after being stopped by police at King George Boulevard and Highway 10. Police had initially spotted him driving with a gun on 16 Avenue in South Surrey at about 11 p.m. When they attempted to pull him over, he sped away. A spike belt was laid down at King George and Highway 10. This disabled his car, which then crashed into another vehicle and a police car.
At this point in the story, the details get a little bit murky. What we do know is that there were gunshots fired, and Purdie died. Police had the intersection closed for most of the next day while they gathered evidence, and because Surrey RCMP were involved in a shooting death, the investigation has been turned over to Saanich Police.
Saanich Police Sgt. Dean Jantzen said that a modified assault rifle was found on Purdie’s lap, and the barrel was pointed toward the Surrey RCMP officer who shot him. The officer involved has six years experience.
These types of situations are very complex, as there are many investigative and administrative hoops to jump through. As frustrating as this may be for grieving family members and friends, it is important because any death involving police must be exhaustively looked into, and details must be eventually made public.
Our society will not function properly if most citizens do not have confidence in police. That’s why the inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver Airport was so important. The public needed to have answers, and their confidence in police needed to be at least partially restored.
Friends and family have paid tribute to Purdie, who has been in trouble with the law in the past. He was sentenced several years ago to four years in prison, for assaulting a police officer, breaking and entering, possession of a firearm and pointing a firearm.
He also was very active helping people who were dealing with drug addictions through Narcotics Anonymous, according to tributes posted on Facebook. Like all human beings, he was unquestionably a complex mixture of emotions and actions.
There has been some suggestion that he may have wanted to commit “suicide by police.” This happens with some people who are struggling with addictions or mental illness, as they consider ending their lives. Thankfully it is rare.
The one fact that suggests there may be something to this is Purdie’s testimony in his trial in 2004. He said that he pointed a gun at a former girlfriend to scare her, and he hoped that police would come and kill him.
If he thought that way several years ago, it is not impossible that the thought would recur – particularly if he was facing some new challenges in his life.
It is important at this stage that members of the public do not condemn police. We simply do not know all the circumstances. However, it is also important the full facts of the case be laid out as soon as possible.
The public must have confidence in police, and police also must know that justice will be done in all cases, including those that directly involve police.
Frank Bucholz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.