Ex-B.C. police chief to investigate release of suspect before Chinatown stabbing

Ex-B.C. police chief to investigate release of suspect before Chinatown stabbing
Then Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich speaks in Abbotsford, B.C., on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017.

Former Abbotsford police chief Bob Rich has been appointed to look into the release of a man from British Columbia’s psychiatric hospital before the man allegedly stabbed three people in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Premier David Eby said Thursday that he has read the BC Review Board report on the accused and wants Rich to determine how the man could have been released, despite being a “really significant danger to the public.”

“At the end of the day, the core question of how a violent, psychotic individual was released into the community to attack innocent people is the question that needs to be answered,” he said during a news conference on a separate issue in Langley, B.C.

Sixty-four-year-old Blair Donnelly has been charged with three counts of aggravated assault and remains in custody after Sunday’s attack at the Light Up Chinatown! festival.

Donnelly stabbed his teenage daughter Stephanie to death in 2006. He was found not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder and sent to B.C.’s Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam.

Eby said the review board report clearly concluded the man was a significant risk and shouldn’t be let out, but somehow between that decision and the attack in Chinatown, he was given day release from the facility.

The premier said he wants Rich to also find out if there are other people under similar circumstances who may also be out on day passes from the hospital.

RELATED: Man charged in triple-stabbing in Vancouver deemed ‘significant threat’ before release

“Which is a very disturbing question to ask, but a necessary one to ask, given the unthinkable happened in this case already.”

A copy of the review board decision was leaked to media, including CHEK News and CityNews. It says Donnelly remained a “significant threat” to the public.

The decision says that since being originally detained at the hospital, Donnelly had stabbed a friend while on day release in 2009 after they consumed cocaine together for several hours. He was convicted of assault.

Then, in 2017, it says Donnelly attacked a fellow patient at the hospital with a butter knife and was found not criminally responsible for the assault.

The April 2023 decision posted online by CHEK says Donnelly required “significant supervision to ensure he does not cause further harm to the public.”

However, the decision added that “reintegration” of Donnelly “could reasonably occur” within eight months of the decision.

Eby said Rich will also have the opportunity to look at why the public didn’t have the information about the review board’s case, which he said is also troubling.

“But it, to be honest, pales in comparison to how disturbed I am that this man was released and unaccompanied and in our community.”

The premier said he has confidence in Rich’s ability, and the terms of reference for the work is being sorted out now and they’ll ensure he has the authority and the staff to “dig into this.”

The review board said in an email that parties to the April decision were being given until Friday to apply for it to be withheld from the media.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2023. 

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