Vancouver police investigating city’s first homicide in homeless camp

VANCOUVER — A 62-year-old man has died following an assault at a troubled homeless camp in the city’s Downtown Eastside, Vancouver police say.

Police say officers were called to Oppenheimer Park on New Year’s Day where a man had been assaulted.

They say Jesus Cristobal-Esteban was taken to hospital where he died on Thursday.

The identity of the suspect is not known, although police say they believe the victim and suspect had some sort of an interaction before the assault.

The death is Vancouver’s first homicide of 2020.

The police department had expressed concern last summer about the level of violence in the homeless camp where it said officers have had to respond to 911 calls at the site on an almost daily basis.

The city’s park board, which has jurisdiction over Oppenheimer Park, voted last month to approve a request for an injunction that would clear out the campers who live there.

The board also approved an independent third-party assessment of the situation that would give recommendations to enhance safety, provide support and find appropriate shelter as a part of a so-called decampment plan.

Board chairman Stuart Mackinnon said in December that it would take time to improve the conditions at the camp and move towards a safe resolution.

The Downtown Eastside encampment is one of many that has sprung across the province in recent years due to a lack of housing.

Police were called to the park in mid-December following a shooting where a man suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

In October, a 53-year-old woman who was visiting a man living at the encampment was seriously hurt in a shooting that police say happened not far from the homeless camp.

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