Man speaks out after West Shore RCMP label him ‘partially-clothed’ near school


A View Royal man says his life has been ruined after West Shore RCMP published his picture, identifying him as a “suspicious, partially-clothed man” near an elementary school.

“All of this is horrifying for me,” said the man who CHEK News is protecting due to his fear of possible harassment. For the rest of the article, he’ll be referred to as Jeremy.

“The most abhorrent thing that you could possibly suggest a human does. Having my picture put out with the inference that I’ve done something absolutely vile. I don’t deserve this,” he said.

“It’s absolutely devastated my whole life, my mental health. I’m not sleeping. I’m crying more than I ever had in my entire life. I’m not leaving the house.”

Jeremy was photographed June 8 shirtless and in a cowboy hat, sitting along the E&N railway at a break in the trees overlooking View Royal Elementary School’s empty field. He was there around 2:15 p.m., strategically, to be alone.

“I’m dealing with PTSD and anxiety. I go there to meditate and stretch, to be alone. There was not another soul that was there for the 15 minutes I was there other than a woman and her child that stared at me,” said Jeremy.

He says he saw a woman staring at him from below and that they were separated roughly 150 metres by an embankment and two high fences.

He says he felt uncomfortable by her staring and left 15 minutes later before school was let out.

Recognized in the community

When Kim Dufort saw the information from West Shore RCMP’s release and the corresponding picture on social media, she immediately knew who it was.

“If I recognized him as somebody who was a customer of mine, his neighbours recognized him, when he goes to the grocery store, people are probably recognizing him,” said Dufort.

“They said he didn’t do anything wrong, so why post the picture?”

Nothing in West Shore RCMP’s initial and since deleted June 8 news release indicated the “suspicious man” had done anything illegal. CHEK News decided not to run the story because of a lack of criminality involved.

Reaction online was similar to Dufort’s, with someone facetiously posting on Victoria’s Reddit, “Today I learned it’s illegal to catch a tan.”

“There are plenty of comments saying it’s so ridiculous it’s funny. Except for if you’re that guy,” said Jeremy, who feels that regardless of being photographed in sunglasses and a cowboy hat, he’ll still be recognized.

“This will never leave me. I don’t want to live here anymore.”

West Shore RCMP doubling down

After speaking with Jeremy, West Shore RCMP took down the photo and explained themselves in a follow-up new release.

“There were no reports of the individual approaching anyone, but considering the numerous past reports of indecent and other criminal acts taking place on the trail systems in the West Shore, police wanted to speak to the individual and determine he was not involved in any criminal activity,” West Shore media relations officer Cpl. Nancy Saggar wrote in the release.

“West Shore RCMP will continue to investigate any such reports of suspicious or criminal activity taking place on the trail systems with the utmost diligence as the safety and security of our youth and citizens accessing the trail systems must take precedence.”

It wasn’t the apology Jeremy was hoping for.

“They mentioned similar issues in the West Shore, but I don’t fit the description of that person at all they said. The only link that I have was that I was male,” said Jeremy.

“I told them I want a full apology and complete retraction from them and every media outlet that printed and posted that, and she said this is not my case. I’m not the lead. I don’t know if an apology is possible.”

Despite more than 72 hours notice, West Shore RCMP have yet to respond to CHEK News’ request for comment.

Legal implications

Criminal lawyers say in this case, police could face legal consequences.

“I think the question that has to be asked to them is why did they issue the release? Did they release it because of a legitimate investigation into whether there was improper conduct worthy of an investigation?” said Michael Mulligan, a criminal lawyer in Victoria.

“The police should use extreme care any time they’re considering issuing a press release that identifies somebody, particularly in circumstances when not only have they not been convicted of something, let alone someone hasn’t been charged with something. That kind of publicity could be seriously damaging to somebody’s reputation, and the police could be civilly liable for that.”

‘Get to know your neighbours’

For the man who was treated like a threat by someone who is likely his neighbour, Jeremy is upset they didn’t take the time to talk to him first.

“I don’t take issue with what that person thought they were doing. Child safety is paramount,” said Jeremy, who has children of his own.

“This is serious stuff. I hope people take the time to get to know your neighbours.”

As for the recognizable cowboy hat he was photographed in, a fond memento from the first family vacation he could afford, it’s now been put away.

“I loved that hat. I can’t wear that anymore,” said Jeremy.

It’s a symbol of the discomfort he now feels after becoming the target of unwanted public attention for doing nothing more than meditating.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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