Kelowna RCMP’s new top cop to answer for department

Cancelled media briefings, notorious RCMP brutality cases in the headlines and a string of questions face incoming Okanagan Inspector

  • Jul. 24, 2013 12:00 p.m.

The man to become the next Kelowna RCMP Superintendent has one less thing to answer for when he meets with members of the media for the first time Thursday morning to discuss national crime statistics.

A summer of difficult, unsolved cases and a notorious run in the headlines—Const. Geoff Mantler’s assault on a man with a brain injury, the previous superintendent’s drug-dealing daughter and Const. Steve Conlon’s assault on a pregnant woman to name the obvious—have cast a pall over the department Insp. Nick Romanchuk will lead.

As of Tuesday, at least one crime can be removed from the string of queries in his department’s lap as the BC Coroners Service has revealed a man found dead in Mill Creek on July 14 was not murdered by his homeless peers as bystanders suggested.

“There’s no indication he was stabbed, shot or bludgeoned to death,” said coroner Barb McLintock, noting investigators have thus decided foul play was not the issue.

Kristoffe James Gunnarson, 55, was found in Mary Ann Collinson Memorial Park in the creek, but the coroner does not know how he died or whether it was a drowning. When asked if a toxicology was done, she did answered “no” before saying her office would not piecemeal out information.

The Capital News has been told Gunnarson has family in the area and he is not homeless, as those who witnessed passersby discovering the body have said.

But little to no information on the case has been released by Kelowna RCMP.

Since January, the police have cancelled the majority of their regularly scheduled Monday briefings and have released very little information on the major crimes that do make it out into the public purview.

It is still unclear, for example, how 27-year-old Theresa Ashley Neville, the only person murdered in Kelowna this year, was killed.

Residents of the area have no idea how she died, whether she knew her killer or even whether the general public faces any danger from a killer on the loose.

With little to no storyline to work from, the murder of the young mother of two—a once teenaged mother who was transitioning relationships and had only just started to work outside the home, according to her landlord—threatens to slip from the public agenda.

A severe beating and sexual assault case that sent a 22-year-old woman to hospital after she was attacked by an unknown man on a trail off the Greenway sits in roughly the same precarious position.

Police have yet to say whether she was, in fact, raped or indicate whether there are tips coming in on the case.

Kelowna has traditionally struggled with a high crime severity index; although, the city did appear to be improving on the rating scale when the figures were released at this time last year.

The city was ranked fifth nationwide by Statistics Canada with a crime severity index rating of 97.4 in 2011, which is a 14 per cent improvement from 2010. Ranking No. 1 on the list was Regina. The national average for Canada is 77. 6.

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Kelowna Capital News