deadmonton 2005 - peter van eck

Peter Van Eck, 39, was beaten to death April 22nd, 2005.

James Lawrence Thompson, 42, was charged with second-degree murder.

Trial and verdict | Van Eck and the Alberta Law Enforcement Review Board

Edmonton's trendy new Railtown development was the scene of an attack on a homeless man who frequented the area. A woman and her two daughters discovered the bleeding man while walking their dog and flagged down paramedics travelling through the area.

Peter Van Eck

Peter Van Eck, a Dene from the Northwest Territories, died of blunt cranial trauma in hospital the day after being found. He became Edmonton's tenth homicide of 2005.

Van Eck was known to like Big Bear beer, Listerine and hairspray, and when he drank he became "really unruly."

"He used to shoot his mouth off too much when he was drinking," said a homeless man from Squamish, B.C. interviewed by local media. "He should have listened when he should have been talking (sic)."

"When he had more than a few drinks, I would get up and go away," said another man, one of Van Eck's drinking partners. "He just got too mouthy."

And Van Eck apparently thought nothing of laying beatings on other people, including his girlfriend.

Van Eck would sometimes stay at the George Spady Centre and sold Our Voice, an inner-city magazine designed to give the homeless a chance to better support themselves. He once made "vendor of the week." Van Eck was also a frequent Whyte Avenue panhandler and bottle collector.

Earlier in 2005, Van Eck appeared in front of the Alberta Law Enforcement Review Board over a complaint that he and another man had been assaulted by downtown beat cops in late summer of 2000 (see below).

James Lawrence Thompson

On April 26th, 2005 homicide detectives issued a Canada-wide warrant for James Lawrence Thompson, 42, of no fixed address.

Thompson had several previous run-ins with the law. He was sentenced on December 14th, 2004 to 30 days in jail for assault, and in the previous month he faced charges of threatening death and bodily harm and causing a disturbance by screaming -- which were later withdrawn.

Thompson once worked as a receptionist at a downtown agency that helps inner-city people. Police issued the warrant after several witnesses came forward.

On April 28th, 2005 detectives were informed that Thompson was in Camrose and they alerted local police. He was apprehended as he was about to board a bus back to Edmonton and was taken into custody without incident.

Thompson had travelled to Camrose to stay with friends. There he shaved his head and washed his clothes. After watching TV reports and learning that a warrant had been issued for his arrest, Thompson decided to surrender and “face the music.”

Edmonton police charged Thompson with second-degree murder.

On March 7th, 2006 Thompson pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

According to an agreed statement of facts entered into trial, Thompson and Van Eck had been “street buddies” for four years, panhandling and picking bottles together.

Thompson told a buddy he had caught Van Eck “doing it” with his girlfriend, Sharon Dumont, and “wanted to do him in” as a result.

Court heard Thompson threatened Van Eck at least twice in the two weeks prior to his death, including just days before the killing when he approached Van Eck and told him, “I’m going to fucking kill you."

On April 22nd, 2005 at about 9 p.m., Van Eck was sitting on a bench in the Railtown park area with his common-law wife Marlene Trottier and her acquaintance Sandra Stamp. Thompson and a friend then arrived.

“Upon seeing Mr. Van Eck, the accused made a beeline towards him and attacked him,” stated the Crown.

Thompson held Van Eck to the ground by his hair and slammed his head against the concrete face first. He then pulled Van Eck's face back and slammed his elbow into his neck.

Van Eck tried to run away but Thompson chased him, took him to the ground again and punched him in the face before slamming his face into the concrete once more. Thompson then walked away.

Court heard the badly bleeding Van Eck was able to get up and sit on the bench, but eventually collapsed to the ground and lost consciousness. He was taken to hospital and pronounced dead the following day, dying from blunt cranial trauma.

Thompson's sentencing hearing is slated for June 6th, 2006.

In February, 2005 Peter Van Eck appeared before the Alberta Law Enforcement Review Board to complain against two city police constables -- Grant Jongejan and Richard Abbott.

Van Eck and his friend, Ed Mahar, alleged Jongejan and Abbott beat them up outside a pizza shop on Jasper Avenue in the summer of 2000.

Van Eck and Mahar first complained about the officers in 2002. Their complaint was dismissed by then-police chief Bob Wasylyshen.

The Criminal Trial Lawyers Association then filed a complaint with the Alberta Law Enforcement Review Board in 2002 on behalf of Van Eck and his friend. It took three years for their complaint to come before the board.

At the February hearing, Van Eck told the three-member panel nervousness and the fear of reprisals kept his friend Mahar from coming to court.

"After this what is going to happen to me? Am I a sitting duck?" Van Eck asked.

Board chair Donna Shelley said she could offer no guarantees about his future safety.

Van Eck testified Jongejan hit him with his fists. "He gave me a black eye and sore ribs. The attack was completely unprovoked," he said.

The hearing continued in September, 2005 without Van Eck. Ed Mahar added to the details his friend provided earlier.

Mahar said the two constables confronted him on Jasper Avenue just after midnight and took away the window-washing equipment he used to make a living, he said.

Mahar claimed Jongejan broke the $90 extender pole he used to wash high windows and then took his pail and squeegee away.

He also claimed the same two officers removed him from the Jasper Pizza restaurant where he had ordered lasagna a few months later.

Jongejan forced him down on his knees behind a wall divider in a police office and hit him hard three times with an object, he added.

Mahar said he didn't show up to give evidence against the officers in February because he was scared of them.

Taking the Review Board by surprise, Mahar also detailed a run-in he had with Constable Elvin Toy. He said Toy took him out on the Yellowhead and beat him up in a ditch.

"They got me pretty good," he added. "They handcuffed me, threw me in the ditch and kicked me."

Mahar said he didn't know the name of the second officer he claims was with Toy. He was wearing new clothes that night and they ended up covered with blood.

Mahar said a Yellow Cab driver gave him a ride back to the city and he had to go the Royal Alexandra Hospital where he received five stitches to his forehead.

Toy was a downtown beat officer under investigation for four complaints of assault, one of discreditable conduct and one of deceit.

Responding to the allegations, Jongejan said he used both the law and his discretion to deal with the public nuisance problems created by impaired and aggressive panhandlers such as Ed Mahar.

"We had many complaints of panhandlers coming into restaurants and panhandling from table to table," he said adding, "Such people also urinated in doorways and intimidated pedestrians by demanding money."

Jongejan denied beating the 38-year-old street person in a downtown police office in 2000 or destroying his squeegee equipment without permission a few months earlier.

Jongejan said he issued Mahar a ticket for public drunkenness because he was interfering with traffic on Jasper Avenue after midnight by approaching drivers and offering to wash their car windows. He said he offered Mahar a choice between receiving another ticket under the Highway Traffic Act or giving up his squeegee equipment.

Jongejan told the review board the homeless man chose to forfeit the equipment, which he valued at about $5, and he threw it in a garbage can.

The two-member review panel reserved its decision on the complaint.

On November 2nd, 2005 a police spokesman revealed that Jongejan was removed from the department's elite tactical unit when he accidentally fired his gun on the job.

Police were executing a search warrant at a south-end home in late September when Jongejan accidentally discharged his gun. No one was home at the time. Police would not say where the bullet ended up.

Jongejan was moved to a patrol position in the west end, and police were conducting an internal review as standard practice.

"When it comes to the tactical unit, officers are out after one strike," the spokesman said. "The tactical section is a really highly specialised section and there really is no margin for error."