A Taiwanese Canadian member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) was fatally stabbed by a homeless man while on duty at a local park in Vancouver.
Const. Shaelyn Yang, a 31-year-old officer who worked in the Burnaby mental health and homelessness outreach team, was called to accompany a parks employee to advise a homeless man who camped out in a tent at Broadview Park just after 11 a.m. local time on Tuesday.
Upon advising him to leave the premises, an altercation took place and Yang was stabbed. The RCMP officer was treated at the scene by first responders and rushed to the Vancouver General Hospital, where she later succumbed to her injuries 30 minutes after the stabbing.
“This is an extremely difficult and tragic day for the B.C. RCMP and the members of the Burnaby detachment,” Dwayne McDonald, the commanding officer in B.C., reportedly said. “She was a loving wife, a sister, and daughter. Those she worked with before joining the RCMP and her police colleagues describe Const. Yang as a kind, compassionate person, which makes her loss even more difficult to accept. Yang died bravely. She answered the call to duty, and she paid the ultimate price.”
While the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team is currently investigating the incident, authorities have not released the details surrounding the altercation that led to Yang’s death.
However, the suspect, identified as 37-year-old Jongwon Ham, was also reportedly shot during the altercation. According to the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), Ham remains in the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
“At this point in time, we’re not certain of the number of shots that were fired. It’s our information that she fired a shot, at least, at the individual who was involved, and that person — a male — went to hospital with injuries, but is expected to survive,” IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald told reporters on Wednesday.
Ham currently faces first-degree murder charges. Based on court records, Ham also faces an assault charge relating to an incident on March 17. In February 2021, he was also charged with assault and willfully resisting or obstructing a peace officer.
On Tuesday night, a procession of emergency services vehicles marked the loss of Yang as they drove down Broadway. On Wednesday, the House of Commons held a moment of silence to honor Yang’s life and service.
“I’m incredibly saddened to hear about the killing of a Burnaby RCMP officer. My thoughts are with the family, friends, and colleagues of the fallen officer – I am keeping you in my thoughts during this terrible time,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote in a tweet on Tuesday.
Yang first served with victim services in Richmond, Vancouver, before she became a Mountie in 2019. She was part of a special RCMP team that took the lead on homelessness and mental health issues in Burnaby.
A fundraiser has been set up on GoFundMe by Yang’s family and friends for her family’s expenses through the tragic loss.
“Shaelyn’s heart gave her the exceptional ability to help the community’s most vulnerable. She was so full of compassion that there was no room for judgment and showed everyone through her actions that heroes do exist,” the organizers wrote.