From The Vault: The Shooting Of Roy Roberts

By on April 16, 2015
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By Mike Archer. This now infamous video of the shooting of one of Abbotsford’s best known members of the homeless community, Roy Roberts, was shot April 16th, 2014 and shows Roberts being taken down in a hail of rubber bullets by APD officers while screaming “What did I do?”

The video also clearly demonstrates an APD officer calling Roberts, whose first name is Roy, by the name ‘John’, a tactic sometimes used to disorient people in confrontations with police. Why a police officer would deliberately try to disorient a man in crisis, a man with whom they have had over 200 interactions and know intimately, who suffers from mental illness and drug addiction, while repeatedly shooting him, is a question the APD has never adequately answered.

No charges were laid against Roy Roberts that day. He was simply shot and taken away.

According to friends, Roy was angry that day because he had just discovered someone had stolen his money. An Abbotsford Foodbank employee called the Abbotsford Police Department (APD).

Roy was also the victim of the City of Abbotsford that weekend.

While he was in hospital, in custody, after the traumatic events at the hands of the APD at the Abbotsford Foodbank, the City moved in and took all of his belongings and took them to the dump. This despite assurances to 5 and 2 Ministries and the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) that his property would be stored for safekeeping.

No charges were laid against Roy Roberts that day. He was simply shot and taken away.

The Drug War Survivors (DWS) had warned the City and officials from the APD and Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) that, what the DWS referred to as their campaign of harassment of Roy in the weeks prior to the incident was going to end badly. City, APD and mental health authorities had been visiting Roy repeatedly every week for several weeks, attempting to make him move from his camp opposite the ACS building.

Roy Colin Roberts is a DWS member and grew up in Abbotsford. He would like the abuse of the homeless, the mentally ill and the victims of addiction to stop. Photo by Bas Stevens

Roy Colin Roberts is a DWS member and grew up in Abbotsford. He would like the abuse of the homeless, the mentally ill and the victims of addiction to stop. Photo by Bas Stevens

He was living, with all of his belongings, at the end of the dead end street outside of ACS since it was the closest he could get to his addictions case worker from ACS (MoMo) who had been moved down to Clearbrook Ave when ACS decided to move the addictions outreach team away from the most destitute and homeless addicts who live in downtown Abbotsford to a spot 40 blocks away at Clearbrook Avenue.

No charges were laid against Roy Roberts that day. He was simply shot and taken away.

Roy lived in a self-constructed 18 ft by 4 ft steel structure which contained all of his belongings, his tools, his memories … his life. It was constructed in such a way as to be able to offer him shelter and mobility. It was collapsible and convertible into a moving storage unit. Built on wheels, it enabled him to survive the ‘Abbotsford Shuffle’ or what is more commonly referred to in better circles as APD Chief Bob Rich’s ‘Displace and Disperse’ policy of helping the homeless.

Roy has lived rough in Abbotsford for a long time. Under overpasses; in the woods; on the streets … anywhere he could escape the APD and the Abbotsford Bylaw Department, one or the other of which always found him.

He lived for some time in a rundown, abandoned house across the street from the ACS parking lot – a place where he was safe and dry and close to MoMo. The City and the APD in their relentless pursuit of Roy eventually forced him out and he settled in his spot, at the end of a dead end road, across from the ACS occupying two parking spaces no one ever used.

No charges were laid against Roy Roberts that day. He was simply shot and taken away.

Roy Roberts, July 31, 2014. Gladys Avenue evacuation. Bas Stevens photo.

Roy Roberts, July 31, 2014. Gladys Avenue evacuation. Bas Stevens photo.

Anyone who knows Roy knows he is a hard working, industrious, friendly, loving, fucked up individual. I was once asked by DWS founder Barry Shantz to pick Roy up and deliver him to a public meeting on the new patch of land where the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) has decided to ‘allow’ the City and the Province of BC to build the smallest homeless shelter for alcohol dependent men ever proposed in BC history – the one Paul MacLeod and Bruce Banman wouldn’t allow to be built across the street from the ACS and close to land owned by MacLeod and others, in order to protect the ‘Mom and Pop’ businesses which are now only a block away from the new location for the shelter.

My son and I pulled up to Roy’s new home opposite the Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) building on Gladys Avenue near the ‘MCC Dignity Village’ homeless protest camp in order to drive him to the meeting.

“Oh,” he said when we pulled up … “Please tell Barry I can’t make the meeting. I’m too busy.” He was rebuilding the makeshift home the City had taken to the dump. His new place has an upstairs bedroom where he can rest, undisturbed and out of sight of the bylaw officers and the police.

No charges were laid against Roy Roberts that day. He was simply shot and taken away.

Roy is the most inspected, arrested, harassed, abused and rejected member of the entire homeless population of Abbotsford. The police, the city and those paid to help and protect him have systematically threatened him, hurt him, arrested him, jailed him, stolen from him, abandoned him and left him to die.

Roy doesn’t to clean up real good and put on a good show for a job interview. Roy doesn’t take kindly to being interrupted, jostled, pushed around or told what to do. By nice middle class church standards, Roy is not the boy you want your daughter to come home from the prom with. Roy is incapable of being anybody but who he is.

Roy Roberts during the Gladys evacuation July 31. Bas Stevens photo

Roy Roberts during the Gladys evacuation July 31. Bas Stevens photo

He is one of the most intelligent, erudite, and stimulating conversationalists I have ever met. He is loyal, hardworking, defiant and courageous. He will help you if you need him to. He will love you if he must.

Yet sometimes I don’t even know what he just said to me. What I do know is that, after a year-and-half of knowing Roy, if I am armed with a coffee and a smile, and I give him time to figure out who I am, he will let me hug him.

It is one of the achievements in my life of which I am most proud. Roy won’t let a lot of people hug him. (I wouldn’t advise that you try)

What is it Roy did to this community that was so wrong?

No charges were laid against Roy Roberts that day. He was simply shot and taken away.

One would think that the treatment which Roy Roberts has received at the hands of the City of Abbotsford, the ACS, the MCC and the APD – with over 200 interactions over more than a decade – might have given someone somewhere pause within the service community, the church community, the City or the APD.

One might think that someone, somewhere within the well-paid leadership of the enormous publicly and privately-funded infrastructure of Abbotsford which uses taxpayer and donated funds to help the poor, the destitute and the vulnerable, to ask whether shooting Roy, arresting him, stealing his property without compensating him and utilizing the full force of Bob Rich’s vaunted ‘Disperse and Displace’ policy against him was doing any good at all … to Roy or anybody else.

Roy’s friends would like the shootings, the beatings, the theft, the assaults, the harassment and the abuse to stop.

What do you think Abbotsford? Do you think that, as a community, we can manage do that?

We have a new mayor and council who are trying hard to stop using the law to fight with citizens like Roy. They are trying hard but there are a number of powerful, rich and lawyered-up individuals and organizations prepared to fight for the right to keep doing what they’ve been doing to Roy.

No charges were laid against Roy Roberts that day because he did nothing wrong. He was simply shot and taken away for being Roy.

And when he was released after 30 days … the City had thrown out all his stuff.

If you would like the harassment of Roy Roberts and his friends to stop, tell someone who can do something about it. They need to know you give a damn.

Email Mayor & Council
Email Abbotsford Community Services
Email MCC
Email Salvation Army
Email APD
Pivot Legal Society
BC Civil Liberies Association

The Shooting of Roy Roberts

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2 Comments

  1. The Editor

    April 16, 2015 at 6:13 pm

  2. The Editor

    April 23, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Helen D Pierce Says:

    It’s good to pay our respects to Roy Roberts. May Spirit hold and bless him.

    From Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/536856343099184/permalink/765671653550984/

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