Barry Shantz, an Abbotsford homeless advocate who was at the forefront of changing city bylaws affecting the city’s most vulnerable populations, has been identified as the man shot by RCMP officers in Lytton 11 days ago.
Lytton RCMP received a call from Shantz’s wife that he had a weapon and may be suicidal just before 8 a.m., Jan. 13. His wife and her 19-year-old daughter were able to exit the house before a six-hour standoff with an emergency response team ensued.
Shantz was shot by police when he walked out of the house carrying a shotgun. He had reportedly told the 911 operator on the phone he was going to do so, requesting to be shot by RCMP officers.
Jesse Wegenest, a pastor at 5 and 2 Ministries, who had worked with Shantz during his activism, expressed dismay at the RCMP’s use of deadly force.
“Shocking is the wrong word. It was deeply, deeply saddening,” Wegenast said. “I can’t pretend to have insight into what happened in the moment. But the bar is pretty high for officers to use lethal force.”
Shantz was well-known advocate for Abbotsford’s homeless community and was a founding member of the B.C. Association of Drug War Survivors.
His – sometimes polarizing – advocacy spearheaded the change to city bylaws which restricted camping in public parks in 2015, the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. He was also led the charge to pressure the city to allow harm-reduction services for drug users.
“Barry was a complex man who leaves behind a very complicated legacy in Abbotsford. He was a man of great intensity. That often alienated people around him,” Wegenast said. “But at the same time he had a heart that longed for justice.”
People close to Shantz said that serving a 15-year prison sentence in the U.S. for marijuana trafficking had left him traumatized and with severe PTSD. Shantz also suffered from other mental health issues.
He had moved from Abbotsford to Lytton several years ago.
“Life was kind of puling him up there… He needed, I think, some tranquility,” Wegenast said. “He had a girlfriend up there, a little triangle lot. And he loved it up there.”
The decision of Lytton’s RCMP to use deadly force is being investigated by the province’s police-watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office.
More to come.