“He kept saying, ‘The kids are gonna go to hell, they’re dead, you’ll see,’ and we’re like, 'You’ll see?' That made us think, 'Are you going to harm our kids?'"
Two Vancouver mothers told CTV News Vancouver that a man threatened to "kill children" while they were at a park on Monday afternoon.
While in Emery Barnes Park, Yaletown resident Lauren Hitchman was with her friend, Tiffany Tolmie, when they saw a man who started acting erratically approaching the park.
Both women had their 17-month-old toddlers with them and grew concerned when the man initially went up and threatened another group of women and children.
Everyone huddled together for safety while the mothers focused on trying to keep the children safe.
Tolmie said that the incident was “immediately terrifying.”
“We were trying to de-escalate the situation, we were asking him calmly just, 'Please leave. We’re asking you nicely to leave,'” Tolmie said.
The man didn’t leave and became increasingly agitated, Hitchman and Tolmie said.
“He was calling me fat, he was saying I need to lose weight, I need to go to the gym, like, 'You’re ugly. No one’s going to love you,' just absurd things,” Hitchman added.
During the interaction, one of them called 911. They said the operator told them to 'hang tight', but police never arrived.
“The fact that we stayed for an hour and no one showed up when someone’s threatening to kill children at the park is incredible,” Tolmie said.
Hitchman said she then saw the same man’s face on a CTV News article a few days later after he’d been reportedly chasing after a woman down the street that same afternoon.
Police officers were reported to have attended that scene, but the man had already fled when they arrived.
“To see on the news that this same person, on the same day, had done the same thing to someone else and that’s where the police had been, I mean, that's super disturbing,” Hitchman said.
According to the VPD spokesperson, Sgt. Steve Addison, there was a “time delay” in officers responding to the call at the park.
They suggested that dispatchers could have been “triaging” calls due to a shortage of resources.
“It’s not necessarily acceptable, but sometimes there can be a time delay because we’re balancing risk,” Addison added.
It was later confirmed to CTV News by Addison that the police had asked patrol units to follow up “immediately” with all women involved in both incidents.
Hitchman said that as someone who works in mental health and addictions, she is used to dealing with situations like this in her role.
But never has it happened while at the park with children and said she now fears the system is failing.
“I know if I was acting in a way that that gentleman was, someone would have checked in on me, so who’s checking in on him?” she added.
- With files from CTV News Vancouver