Murder victim Matthew Navas-Rivas had several run-ins with police over the years before he was gunned down Wednesday evening in a quiet East Van neighbourhood.
Navas-Rivas and a friend were walking their dogs just before 8 p.m. on July 25 when a suspect approached Navas-Rivas and shot him on the grass in front of Tillicum Community Annex on Cambridge Street. He was rushed to hospital but died a short time later.
Like his brother, Jinagh Navas-Rivas, who is the former foster son of Mayor Gregor Robertson, Navas-Rivas was in the care of the Ministry of Children and Families for some time during his childhood but, according to court documents, he lived with his grandmother for most of his life.
He dropped out of high school in Grade 9 or 10 and, court documents say, he later started taking an auto refinishing course. He dropped out, however, after getting shot in the leg while waiting at a bus stop. He was just 17.
“Family members and others who know him say they observed a change in his personality following that incident,” B.C. Supreme Court Justice Nathan Smith said in a 2013 sentencing for a violent home invasion three years earlier.
His first adult conviction was in April 2009 for assault causing bodily harm and unlawful confinement. He was sentenced to 16 months in jail followed by two years of probation.
Following his release from prison, he went to work as a tile setter. However, at the same time he started using the drug ketamine regularly.
In July 2010, while still on probation, Navas-Rivas and another man broke into a home on Garden Drive in Vancouver early in the morning and held a family, including two young children, at gun-point while they rifled through the house. The guns turned out to be fakes. He was convicted in June 2013 of using an imitation firearm while committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence, robbery, breaking and entering, and possession of an imitation firearm for a purpose dangerous to the public peace. He received a sentence of three years and three months.
Navas-Rivas had two more convictions, one for breaching probation in March 2012 and another for assault in May of that year, and received sentences of 30 days and four months respectively.
He was arrested in Richmond in January 2012 following a string of cell phone robberies. During the arrest, Navas-Rivas was punched and face-washed on the asphalt by Richmond Mountie Inderpal Singh Bal.
According to court documents, Richmond RCMP officers were conducting undercover surveillance after a series of thefts that occurred in downtown Richmond between Dec. 31, 2011 and Jan. 26, 2012.
On Jan. 26, 2012, Navas-Rivas was under surveillance in connection to the robberies when RCMP lost visual contact with him. Officers caught up with Navas-Rivas and a second suspect as they fled the scene of another robbery. Officers pulled over a car driven by Navas-Rivas. Both men were ordered to stay inside the vehicle but they exited the car with their arms raised.
Video footage, taken from an RCMP cruiser equipped with a dashboard camera, then shows Bal with his service gun drawn but pointed downward, approaching the suspect quickly and then aggressively putting a knee to Navas-Riva's lower back.
Court documents say the video showed the officer placing his weapon on the ground near Navas-Rivas and looking “up and to his right for a brief moment and then with his right hand (striking) Navas-Rivas in the head/face."
A female police officer also observed Bal grabbing Navas-Rivas's hair and pushing “his head into the asphalt.”
Bal pleaded guilty to assault and received a suspended sentence, six months probation and was ordered to work 25 hours of community service.
In an affidavit following the incident, Navas-Rivas said he suffered headaches, dizziness and vision problems as a result of the assault.
He had been completing courses to earn his high school diploma while incarcerated; however, court documents say, he was unable to participate in any programming while he was in custody due to vision problems and headaches. He stopped taking the high school courses.
Before the 2013 conviction, Navas-Rivas had spent the majority of the preceding four and a half years in custody.
“Nevertheless, he appears to have the benefit of a family and social support network,” Smith said in his 2013 ruling. “I have been provided with a number of letters of reference, including one from his grandmother with whom he has lived most of his life, and one from his former employer, who says he has told him that there is a full-time job waiting for him when he completes his sentence.”
Navas-Rivas was arrested earlier this year in January following a months-long investigation by Vancouver Police Department’s organized crime section, dubbed Project Tactic.
In addition to making two arrests, officers seized guns, more than 1,200 rounds of ammunition, multiple high-capacity magazines, silencers, balaclavas, zap-straps, a Taser and handcuffs. As a result, Navas-Rivas was facing 39 firearms-related charges.
His death marks the city’s 12th homicide of 2018.
With files from Alyse Kotyk/Richmond News