‘Genuinely nice guy’: Parksville man who died after RCMP arrest reported assault hours earlier

'Genuinely nice guy': Parksville man who died after RCMP arrest reported assault hours earlier
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Oceanside RCMP are invesitgating the possibility that John Boyce was assaulted before July 18. Boyce had been arrested by police for causing a public disturbance and died in hospital after leaving police custody.

A man whose death is under investigation both by police and the Independent Investigations Office is remembered fondly by members of the community.

In a release, police say 53-year-old John Boyce allegedly told a witness that he had been assaulted in Craig Street Market in Parksville on July 18, and officers responded to assist, but were unsuccessful in finding him.

An hour later, they arrested him in Memorial Plaza for causing a public disturbance.

The next day when he was being released, officers realised he appeared unwell and he was brought to the hospital. He died on July 21.

Police say an autopsy has been ordered to determine his cause of death.

Boyce and his bike were a fixture in Parksville for years. As the friendly homeless man looked for bottles and cans, he would often wave and say hello to business owners like Cindy Clarke.

“Collecting bottles, he was always friendly. Genuinely nice guy,” said Cindy Clarke, owner of Crafty’s Crystals.

Clarke was saddened to learn that Boyce has died under mysterious circumstances, that appear to have started with his being assaulted on a sidewalk across from her Craig Street shop.

It happened during a packed Craig Street Market, at 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday, July 18. Clarke said she saw the commotion but didn’t notice it involved Boyce until later, because both the victim and attacker left.

“Scary because the street market is filled with hundreds and hundreds of people every Tuesday. So the fact that it happened during the street market is scary,” said Clarke.

Boyce’s friend Helen Hiltunen knew Boyce for years and was just steps away from him when he was arrested.

“Too sad, because he doesn’t deserve that,” Hiltunen, told CHEK News on Thursday.

“Did you see any injuries on him?” CHEK News asked her.

“No he had none,” said Hiltunen.

So she is unsure of what happened to Boyce.

“Wondering what happened from the time he left here,” said Hiltunen.

According to Hiltunen, Boyce said he was a military veteran and had two children. But added he had been acting strangely, and was erratic in the days before his arrest.

“(He) shouldn’t have had to die,” she said.

Eerily, Boyce seemed to fear this harm coming, when CHEK News interviewed him in 2020.

“It is so dangerous out here, and because there’s no accountability,” John Boyce said in an interview with CHEK News on September 11, 2020.

RCMP is hoping to speak with anyone who may have witnessed Boyce being assaulted. Anyone with information is asked to call the Oceanside RCMP at (250) 248-6111 quoting file # 2023-7438.

Additionally, IIO is investigating whether police actions or inactions may have led to Boyce’s death and are also hoping to speak with witnesses. People with information are asked to contact the Witness Line toll-free at 1-855-446-8477 or via the contact form on the iiobc.ca website.

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