One man is recovering in hospital and Vancouver police are investigating after a shooting in Oppenheimer Park Wednesday night.
Officers patrolling the area heard gunshots in the park at around 10:30 p.m. and discovered a 31-year-old Vancouver man with a gunshot wound near Powell Street and Jackson Avenue. Media relations officer Sgt. Jason Robillard said officers initially cleared the tents in the park to ensure everyone was safe.
The injured man is in hospital in stable condition. Robillard said the investigation is ongoing and police believe the suspect fled on foot. No arrests have been made.
The department is raising the alarm about safety in the park.
“There has been a sharp increase in the level of violence in and around the encampment at Oppenheimer Park in recent months,” Robillard said. “Police are responding to several 911 calls in the park every day and we are very concerned about the safety of the people staying there, our officers, firefighters and City of Vancouver staff.”
Last month alone, officers responded to 92 emergency calls in the park. The month of May saw 87 calls. That’s up significantly from 2018, which saw 56 emergency calls in both May and June.
Robillard said police are associating the increase in calls with the ever-growing encampment at the park.
“We want people to be safe in the park and currently the environment there is not safe, even for our officers,” Robillard said. “On Wednesday, a police officer was assaulted as she tried to assist city crews working to keep the park clean.”
He said that the officer was kicked in the knee at least three times as she tried to remove a man who had jumped onto a garbage truck that was there to “remove some rubbish that was in the area.” Robillard said that he has heard that when called to the park, officers go in groups of no less than four.
“Right now I would not recommend the general public walk through Oppenheimer Park,” he said.
In May, a group of protestors rallied in support of campers in the park, calling for more urgent action in the fight against homelessness — demanding that the city work to improve living conditions in the park and look for longer-term solutions to provide more affordable housing to those who need it.
And last week, Powell Street Festival organizers announced this year’s event, which takes place Aug. 3 and 4 in the neighbourhood surrounding Oppenheimer Park, has been designed in a way that will not displace those living in the park.
The festival is a celebration of Japanese Canadian arts and culture. The community has strong ties to the area as it is the historic neighbourhood of Japanese Canadians in the city before they were forcibly removed by the Canadian government in 1942.
“As a community that has experienced forced displacement, we refuse to continue this pattern of dispossession of vulnerable people in this area,” Powell Street Festival Society president Edward Takayanagi said in a press release.
Anyone who witnessed Wednesday’s shooting in the park, or who has any information that may help police, is asked to call investigators at 604-717-2541 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.