SURREY, B.C. — A 20-year-old man from Burnaby, B.C., has been charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of a teenager on a Metro Vancouver transit bus last week.
Seventeen-year-old Ethan Bespflug was killed in a stabbing on a bus in Surrey, B.C., last Tuesday.
The province’s integrated homicide investigations team says 20-year-old Kaiden Mintenko was arrested Sunday and the charge was laid on Monday.
Police say they are still working to determine the exact nature of the relationship between Bespflug and Mintenko but can confirm this was not a random attack.
The teen’s family has said Bespflug’s mother realized something was wrong when she tracked her son’s phone to a hospital in New Westminster. When she arrived she was told he had died.
The teen’s murder is among a series of violent incidents on commuter buses and trains in several Canadian cities recently.
B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Monday that he has spoken to his federal counterpart, Marco Mendicino, about the issue of violence on public transit.
Farnworth said he expects to see an increased law enforcement presence on transit systems in B.C. after ministry officials met with policing agencies about safety on trains and buses.
Bespflug’s aunt, Andrea Van Der Gracht, said in an earlier interview that Ethan was a good kid, and an older brother who worked hard to help look after his four siblings.
She said the teen regularly took the bus to Surrey, where his mother would pick him up for their drive home to Abbotsford, about an hour east of there.
Van Der Gracht said the family had moved from Surrey last year, partly because of concerns about crime.
Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards, the officer in charge of the Surrey RCMP, said they are working closely with transit police and are assigning mobile street enforcement officers to areas that need a visible presence.
“Such violence, it generates fear in our community. As such, I remain committed to a direct approach, as I’ve stated,” he said.
“On a long-term approach, we need to look at the root causes, such as mental health, addictions, bail reform and resourcing.”
Transit violence also came up in the legislature Monday, with B.C. United Leader Kevin Falcon saying people in B.C. want safe transit systems and safe communities.
“When is this premier and this government finally going to take some steps so people feel safe in their communities again,” Falcon said.
Premier David Eby called the recent transit attacks “horrific” and “absolutely heartbreaking” and promised the government will continue to take action.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2023.