A 31-year-old Burnaby Mountie was stabbed to death in the line of duty Tuesday morning during a call at a local homeless camp.
At about 11:05 a.m., Const. Shaelyn Yang was accompanying a City of Burnaby parks employee conducting outreach at a homeless camp in the area of Broadway Park off Canada Way, according to information presented at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
“An altercation took place, and Const. Yang was fatally stabbed,” said Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, commanding officer of the RCMP in B.C.
A suspect associated with the incident was shot and taken to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries, according to McDonald.
A Richmond resident, Yang was posted to the Burnaby detachment after finishing her RCMP training in December 2019.
She was a member of Burnaby RCMP’s mental health and homeless outreach team.
“Those she worked with before joining the RCMP and her police colleagues describe Const. Yang as a kind and compassionate person, which makes her death all the more difficult to accept,” McDonald said.
Chief Supt. Graham de la Gorgendiere, the officer in charge of the Burnaby RCMP detachment, described Yang’s death while on duty and in service to her community as “senseless and tragic.”
“We’re all struggling to come to terms with this tragic loss,” he said.
Police have released little information about what happened during the altercation.
When asked what had brought Yang to the scene, McDonald said she was there “in the regular course of her duties.”
Answers were equally vague when it came to questions about who shot the suspect and how quickly police backup had arrived.
“That’ll all be subject to the investigation,” de la Gorgendiere said. “I understand it all unfolded very quickly.”
The incident is being investigated by both the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team and the Independent Investigations Office, which investigates incidents of death or serious harm that may have been the result of the actions or inactions of a police officer.
The City of Burnaby parks employee was physically unharmed during the deadly incident, according to police, and Mayor Mike Hurley vowed city employees and the Burnaby RCMP will get all the support they need as they struggle to come to terms with the tragedy.
He said the incident had left city staff “deeply shaken.”
Among the condolences shared online was a message from the Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby, who said they were “shocked and saddened” by the news of Yang’s death.
“This has never occurred before with our homeless population, as most of our most vulnerable neighbours are peaceful and non-violent,” read a statement from the society posted on Twitter.