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Numerous 911 calls result in arrests of two knife-wielding men in Vancouver

Police Chief Adam Palmer: "Despite these challenges, Vancouver is a safe city."

Vancouver police responded to numerous 911 calls Wednesday that culminated in the arrest of two men in separate knife-wielding incidents that saw a 61-year-old man stabbed downtown and others fearing for their lives.

In both cases, police say the suspects’ mental health appears to have been connected to the unprovoked incidents, which occurred in the morning across a section of downtown and at the Clark Drive and East Hastings Street intersection.

The randomness of the incidents comes the same week that officers were called to Stanley Park March 18 for what Police Chief Adam Palmer described as a sexually motivated stranger attack on a woman.

Police continue to search for a suspect.

The incidents were addressed by Palmer and Mayor Ken Sim at a news conference held Thursday at the VPD’s Cambie Street precinct, where questions were asked about whether residents should be concerned about the sudden spike in violent crime this week.

“When we're looking at crime overall, the data is very clear — that over the last five years, the crime severity index in Vancouver has reduced by 16.1 per cent,” the chief said.

“Whereas the crime severity index in Canada over that same period has gone up by 6.1 per cent. And when we're talking about serious violent crimes and assaults, year to date in 2024, it's actually down 14 per cent across the city.”

The mayor had a different take, saying Vancouver is a big city that has big city problems.

“That's just the reality, and Vancouver's growing by the day, and these are big city challenges, so there will be incidents like this now and in the future,” said Sim, who reminded reporters of his ABC Vancouver party’s commitment to hire 100 police officers and 100 mental health workers. “But when you look at the data…it is becoming a safer city.”

Taser, beanbag shotgun

The two high-profile incidents that unfolded Wednesday occurred between 8:40 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. and drew the attention of several officers, who used Tasers and beanbag shotguns to make the two arrests.

A 46-year-old man released March 15 from Fraser Regional Correctional Centre who was serving time for uttering threats against his family and “prominent” politicians was arrested on Cambie Street in connection with the stabbing of a 61-year-old man.

The man, who Palmer said appears to have mental health challenges, remains in custody after police linked him to five incidents. The arrest was made after a series of incidents reported across downtown.

In the first incident, a man was randomly attacked while walking near Seymour and West Cordova streets. Minutes later, a 911 caller reported that a man entered a coffee shop near Harbour Centre, where a window was broken and caused customers to fear for their safety.

More than two hours later, a man walking near Main and Prior streets was chased by a stranger, who lunged and yelled at him. The man ran from the attacker before police were called to Smithe and Beatty streets for a report of a man stabbing another man, and chasing others with a knife.

Shortly after he was arrested on Cambie Street, police learned the man was involved in an additional assault, which is still under investigation.

Thailand bank

Kent Meades has been charged with assault with a weapon, assault and uttering threats. Palmer said he expected more charges would be approved against Meades, who appeared in court Thursday morning. He will remain in custody until a March 28 appearance.

The chief said Meades was previously in jail in Thailand for breaking into a bank, causing damage to the bank and overstaying his tourist visa before returning to Canada in 2022.

Meades failed to report to his probation officer in Surrey Wednesday.

The victim of the stabbing, meanwhile, received treatment in hospital.

“The emotional trauma will likely remain for a long time,” Palmer said. “I just want to reiterate that the victim and the suspect in this case are total strangers. They have no prior relationship with one another, and that my thoughts are with the victim and his family.”

Palmer described the incidents as “extremely serious crimes,” and that nobody should downplay the impact that they have on Vancouverites, who became familiar with random assaults in 2022 when they totalled an average of four per day.

“Everybody should feel safe when they go to a coffee shop, or they head out for a walk on their lunch break in downtown Vancouver,” he said.

“And the actions of this one man yesterday have left many in community questioning their sense of safety in our city. Incidents like the one that happened yesterday are disturbing. But I can assure you that despite these challenges, Vancouver is a safe city.”

A report that went before the Vancouver Police Board in February estimated there was an average of 2.3 unprovoked stranger assaults per day in 2023.

The statistic has since been challenged with Wednesday’s stabbing, the sexual assault in Stanley Park and an incident yesterday morning at Clark Drive and East Hastings Street.

Multiple people called 911 reporting that a man was waving a knife at the intersection. When police arrived, the man approached police and refused commands to drop his knife, according to Palmer, who noted video of the incident had circulated on social media.

The video, which Glacier Media also obtained, shows police firing multiple rounds from a beanbag shotgun at the man before he is hit with a Taser. None of the officers was injured and the suspect was taken to hospital. He is now in jail.

Abolfazi Amini, 36, has been charged with weapons and assault offences and remains in custody.

Mental Health Act

In July 2022, the VPD released data on assaults committed by people not known to the victim and found that mental health was a contributing factor in 73 per cent of 44 cases examined by the department

Of the 44 stranger assaults, 53 per cent involved a suspect who had been previously apprehended by police under the Mental Health Act, according to the data.

The findings:

• 90 per cent of suspects were men.

• 60 per cent were 20 to 39 years old.

• 60 per cent were previously charged with a violent crime.

• 78 per cent were charged in a previous criminal incident.

• 40 suspects had 3,892 prior police interactions across the region; more than half were with VPD.

The data covered the period between March and June of 2022.

Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer spoke to reporters Thursday at the VPD’s Cambie Street precinct regarding recent random attacks. Photo Mike Howell