Police turned back traffic at the Borden Creek bridge in the Chilliwack River Valley on March 25, 2017 after a bizarre string of shootings culminating in an arrest of Peter Anthony Kampos. A BC Supreme Court justice declared Kampos unfit to stand trial due to mental illness on Dec. 4, 2018. (Greg Laychak/ Black Press)

Man charged with attempted murder in Chilliwack River Valley deemed mentally unfit

Father says son has schizophrenia; Law professor say too many with mental illness in jail

Peter Anthony Kampos believes that Earth is being attacked by aliens, that he can recognize those aliens in human form, and it’s his duty to eliminate them.

That’s according to his extremely concerned father Vaclav Kampos who attended part of his son’s trial for attempted murder.

“In his mind the noble and necessary thing to do is to save the people and the Earth from them,” Vaclav wrote in a letter he handed to The Progress.

Peter Anthony Kampos

In the middle of his jury trial in October, Peter Kampos’s lawyer Mark Swartz finally told the court he, too, was concerned about his client’s mental state. Kampos apparently spoke of a conspiracy to find him guilty, he suggested there has been tampering of evidence and collusion.

• READ MORE: Attempted murder in Chilliwack River Valley goes to trial

• READ MORE: Mental fitness questioned of man charged in Chilliwack River Valley shooting

A court-appointed psychiatrist found that Kampos had mental health issues but did not find him unfit to stand trial. A second psychiatrist brought in by the Crown came to a different conclusion, and after a fitness hearing in BC Supreme Court in New Westminster last week, Justice Martha Devlin declared him unfit.

The charges stem from a shooting incident in the Chilliwack River Valley on March 25, 2017. That day Cameron Rose was shot while sitting in his car on the side of Chilliwack Lake Road. He was hit in the right shoulder but managed to escape the scene, racing down the road and stumbling across a military training exercise where he was helped.

Kampos is no longer at the Surrey Pre-Trial Centre and is now housed at Colony Farm forensic psychiatric hospital. There he can be forced to undergo treatment for his condition, which his father says includes schizophrenia, and the Review Board has 60 days to review the finding of unfit to stand trial.

If he is ever deemed fit, the trial will either continue from where it left off or a new trial could be ordered.

What did not come up at trial is that there was also an alleged shooting spree over a 14-hour period at commercial vehicles one day before the Chilliwack River Valley incident in various communities between Terrace and the Lower Mainland. In those shootings, a blue Dodge Caliber with Ontario licence plates was reported being seen, a vehicle with the same description as the Rose shooting in the Chilliwack River Valley the next day.

Crown did not have enough evidence to proceed on charges related to those shootings.

The fact that Kampos was eventually found unfit to stand trial is one that may never have happened if his lawyer didn’t change course and bring it up mid-trial.

And it’s a finding that all-too often is overlooked, leading to too many people with mental health issues to be sent to jail rather than to receive treatment, according to Isabel Grant, a law professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC.

“A lot of people with mental illness are going to jail in this country,” Grant said in an interview back in October during the trial. “More people are going to jail than to the forensic system.”

Grant said that because the issue of mental fitness can only be raised by the defence “it doesn’t get raised very often at all.”

She brought up the example of Vince Li who beheaded Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba in 2008. Li was found not criminally responsible because of a mental illness, and there was evidence that before the incident he presented himself to a psychiatric hospital but was turned away.

“That’s the abysmal failure of our system,” she said. “It’s a really tragic situation.”

Grant made those comments before Kampos’s lawyer asked for the mental fitness hearing, and while it looked like it wouldn’t happen.

“I feel for the father and the victim,” she said. “Our mental health system does not serve everybody well.”

Vaclav Kampos became visibly emotional in courtroom 201 at the Chilliwack Law Courts in October when Justice Devlin did order that mental fitness assessment for his son.

In his letter, Vaclav said he knows his words will make his son hate him but that he knows Peter is a danger to himself, his family and the public.

“I’m doing this for my love of Peter and hoping that eventually he will understand,” Vaclav wrote. “I want to take this opportunity to apologize for Peter to all the people Peter caused harm to, especially to the unfortunate man he nearly killed, and my hope is that Peter by himself will come and apologize to him personally when he understands.”

Vaclav pointed to what he calls the injustice in the Canadian system that stems from our freedoms, freedoms that even flow to people with serious mental illness. Having grown up in communist Czechoslovakia, Vaclav expressed dismay in the Canadian system that he was not detained because of his mental illness before he committed his crimes.

Previously diagnosed as schizophrenic at a Kamloops hospital, Peter was then released with a drug prescription.

“The doctor treating him there told me over the phone upon Peter’s unexpected release, that if Peter will stop his hospital medications his condition will worse.”

“My son Peter at present cannot be let go free…. If he is not cured and shows understanding about what happened to him than he cannot be let go free.

“I’m ending this letter in hope that this story will in some way promote discussion of law professionals about mental illness and the law approach to the matter.”


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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