A Winnipeg man says he feels lucky police were seconds away after a Sunday afternoon bus ride with his grandkids turned deadly when a man was stabbed on board and died.
Raymond Wesley Hill, 57, died just over a week ago after he was attacked on a Winnipeg Transit bus downtown around 3 p.m., on May 24.
Dan Lafleur said he and his grandsons, ages three and four, were sitting toward the back of the bus, behind the rear door, when Hill, who was sitting a few rows ahead, got up to leave.
“The assailant just lunged at him and stabbed him in the upper abdomen,” said Lafleur.
“[The victim] turned towards me and said ‘I’ve been stabbed’.”
The bus was stopped on Balmoral Street, near Ellice Avenue, at the time.
Lafleur said that’s when Hill made his way off the bus and halfway across a parking lot to flag down a passing police car.
“Then I noticed the bus driver exit out his side window,” said Lafleur.
Police surrounded the bus within ninety seconds, Lafleur said, but at that point he said he was trapped on the bus with the alleged attacker, and the back door was closed.
“He took a step toward the back of the bus, and my two grandsons were sitting in front of me, so I got up and walked toward him,” Lafleur said.
“I said ‘I’m here with my two grandsons, this is over, get off the front of the bus, he just ignored me.”
The police yelled at him to sit down, Lafleur said, which he did.
“I guess just instinct kicks in, you know, try to get in front of the kids and you’re just watching it all play out.”
Trapped inside bus
Lafleur said, by that point, the man had thrown the knife under some seats, but he didn’t know if the man would try and take a hostage.
“The only open door was the front, and he wasn’t getting out the front of the doors so I don’t know what his mindset was but I wasn’t going to wait to find out.”
Watch: Police surround Winnipeg Transit bus after fatal stabbing:
Lafleur said there was a woman seated closer to the front of the bus, who also didn’t get up.
“We didn’t try [the back door] from the inside, there was a female police officer that was kicking the door from the outside, seeing if it would open,” he said.
“It wasn’t budging.”
Lafleur said officers eventually made their way onto the bus through the front door and arrested the man.
City won’t say if driver followed training
The City of Winnipeg wouldn’t say if the driver followed safety protocols or what procedures are in place when it comes to violent incidents happening on a Transit bus.
“As part of our ongoing commitment to safety, operators are trained to deal with a variety of difficult and dangerous situations,” a spokesperson for the city said in an email.
“For security purposes, we will not comment on the details of that training.”
Lafleur doesn’t know if anything could have been done differently, or if the driver was just following his training.
“[The driver] was probably closest to the assailant, and with all the things that have happened in the past, with bus drivers being murdered, I don’t really blame him for bailing out the side window,” he said.
“It would have been nice had he left the back door open but it just happened so fast.”
Man, 46, charged
While police had the bus surrounded, paramedics treated Hill nearby. He was taken to hospital but later died of his injuries.
Justin Gabriel James, 46, has been charged with manslaughter. The case against him has not been proven in court.
Police said James and Hill didn’t know each other and that the attack appeared to be random, and that alcohol is believed to be a factor.
Lafleur said the two men had got on at the same stop near Portage Place Mall. He said there was no argument or discussion in the moments before the stabbing.
“It’s a tough way to go, I feel sorry for him and his family,” said Lafleur.
Lafleur not detered from riding bus
The stabbing was just one of at least five that happened in the city that weekend. Police also responded to 14 reports of gunfire during a 24-hour period, including one where a man was shot.
There have been several other incidents of random attacks in recent weeks, including one where a 15-year-old was attacked with a hammer on Saturday morning.
“I guess these things happen pretty much everywhere,” Lafleur said of the ordeal.
“It’s not going to deter me from getting on the bus with my grandkids again,” he said, adding it was only their second time riding the bus, which they were doing for fun.
Lafleur said his grandkids didn’t see the attack because the seat in front of them would have blocked their view, but they did see the police with guns drawn outside the bus windows.
“They even asked me ‘what were those policemen holding?’ They didn’t realize they were guns.”
Lafleur said it was lucky police were driving by at the time, and that they noticed Hill and stopped. He credits police for reacting quickly and making sure his grandkids were ok.
“The police were very good with the kids, showing them the police car and giving them little stickers, so I don’t think they were traumatized,” he said.
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