The victim of what’s been deemed a random and deadly act of violence is being remembered by friends as an upstanding guy, who lived life to the fullest.
Caesar Rosales, 55, was killed last Thursday while riding a Kelowna bus on the university loop. Witness accounts and police statements indicate he was minding his own business, when a younger man approached him on his way out the door.
Within moments Rosales was on the floor, bleeding heavily as an estimated 13 to 20 passengers rushed to his aid. He died before emergency crews arrived.
“It’s a terrible tragedy,” said Grant Stevens, a coworker of Rosales at Flightcraft, stressing that this wasn’t an ugly episode between a “couple of gangsters.”
“We’ve lost not only an employee, but also a friend. This senseless, needless murder has left a void for us. How could something like this happen in Kelowna?”
Rosales went to work at the aerospace company as a business systems analyst just two years ago, by way of Vancouver and, 10 years before that, the Philippines.
“He was an upstanding citizen, in our estimation. He was a polite, well-spoken, intelligent individual,” said Stevens.
“Interestingly enough, he was quiet and reserved until you got him into something he liked. Then he was passionate.”
Referring to a series of videos that Rosales posted on YouTube where he is seen skydiving, zip-lining, bungee jumping and even heading to Vegas adventures, Stevens pointed out that moving to the Okanagan prompted Rosales to live life to the fullest.
That included being a conscientious citizen, which is what led him to the No. 8 bus Thursday night.
“He believed in public transportation. With the job and income level he had, he could have had a vehicle if he wanted to, but when we interviewed him in 2012, he said he wanted to know if he’d be able to use public transit before he took the job,” said Stevens.
So, he and some coworkers commuted to and from work together using the city’s transit system. That day they had been on their way home when Rosales said the weather looked good, and he wanted to go downtown to run some errands.
“He said, ‘catch you tomorrow,’ then he did a transfer at UBC Okanagan and went downtown,” said Stevens. “He was on his way home when the murder took place.”
While nobody knew what Rosales was going through that night, many had suspicions by the next morning. News of a killing on a local bus had circulated through the city, and Rosales didn’t show up for work.
“He is Mr. Reliable,” said Stevens. “When he didn’t arrive at work we called his cell phone and had no answer we knew something was wrong. Then we got through to the police by around 10 a.m.”
Confirmation hit Rosales’s coworkers like a ton of bricks, said Stevens, noting that they’ve contacted a grief counsellor to help them through.
“It’s a struggle. It’s a big void for the people he worked with,” he said. “You come to work and see his desk, and now it’s empty, and you know he’s never coming back.”
Family members mourning the loss of Rosales include a grown son in Vancouver. Also in the Philippines are Rosales’s 83-year old mother, his two brothers and sister. They originally asked for Rosales’s name to be withheld from the public, but it was released over the course of court proceedings, and Stevens readied himself for the media onslaught.
Stevens pointed out that talking about Rosales on behalf all of those who are grieving is difficult, but it’s important to him for people to realize that this was an ugly event that never should have happened.
Safety concerns about the transit routes immediately came to the fore after the Thursday attack.
“Kelowna transit lost its innocence last night,” Les Milton, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said Friday. “We’ve been running since 1977 and we’ve never had anything like this happen before. It’s very new to us, but it brought us into the fold with Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.”
That said, he believes Kelowna’s public transit is safe, although there will likely be changes to security in the aftermath.
What they may be are not anything he’s willing or able to speculate about.
As those changes are worked out, and the community comes to terms with the violent episode, there are some things Milton believes are worth remembering. In particular, the actions of all those involved on scene that night.
“The outpouring of support for the victim and the driver was just stellar,” Milton said, noting that passengers worked tirelessly to save Rosales.
Milton also had high praise for the police.
“I woke up this morning with a whole different perspective on the local police force than I had the day before,” he said. “I can’t believe the resources we have in this town and the kind people who we dealt with. I’m just in awe.”
As is the case with Flightcraft, counselling has been offered to transit employees who were affected by the crime.
“Our operator was an older gentleman… and he’s definitely shaken and his view of humanity is probably different than mine this morning,” said Milton, noting that he has hopes he’ll return to the transit service as he’s a valuable member of their team.
Tyler Jack Newton, 24, was arrested the next day and has since been charged with second degree murder. He was remanded into custody during a Monday morning court appearance, and will return to the courthouse later this month.
A supporter of Newton was in court that day, and noted on her way out the door that he was a good kid.
Newton is known to police.