On Sunday, January 24, 2016, David McQueen, quadriplegic and wheel-chair bound, was shot and killed by Calgary police. In the days following the shooting family and friends remembered and mourned the loss of a dedicated dad and friend with a great sense of humor who dealt with sever health problems, often alone and abandoned by public health services.
Days after McQueen’s killing by Calgary police, one of his two sons, Justin McQueen, remembered his father as a dedicated and loving father. He also noted that his dad had been suffering from extreme loneliness in the period preceding his being shot by police. Justin McQueen was three when his father suffered the spinal injury that left him quadriplegic.
Justin McQueen recalled his dad: “He was an awesome dad. He didn’t act as though he had the accident. He played sports, he took us fishing” (quoted in Wiebe 2016).
According to the son the health issues and effects of the injury eroded his father’s well-being over time. The situation degraded as his frustrations with unresponsive or underresponsive governements and public health care systems grew. Justin McQueen notes that his father was never provided with proper home care and his expressions of depression were ignored and untreated (Wiebe 2016). Justin McQueen recalls: “He was suffering. He was pretty much left in that house and screaming for help and nobody would help him” (quoted in Wiebe 2016).
Among McQueen’s closest friends was former NHL gaolie and longtime hockey broadcaster Kelly Hrudey. Hrudey sought out McQueen after reading a story about the Calgary father who was selling flowers from a cart to support his children after being paralyzed in a diving accident at Sikome Lake in 1994. McQueen’s son, Justin, remembers Hrudey helping his family, recalling: “Kelly was my dad’s best friend” (quoted in Ho 2016).
Hrudey remembers going to meet McQueen after reading his story: “I went down there to visit anonymously. I didn’t tell him who I am or what I do or anything. I just sat there and chatted with him. He had a great sense of humour, he loved to laugh, he was engaging” (quoted in Ho 2016). From there an ongoing friendship developed. The two often got together to chat over lunch.
McQueen’s existing frustrations with government, healthcare services, and police intensified following the death of his beloved companion and service dog, Bear, earlier this month. This left McQueen feeling abandoned and alone according to those who knew him. Recalled Justin McQueen: “It was his absolute best friend. It was his only best friend” (quoted in Wiebe 2016).
Upon hearing the news that McQueen had been shot and killed by police, Hrudey reflected on his friend’s suffering and the need for access for mental health supports: “It’s terrible. He was everything you wanted in a friend. Unfortunately, and we’ve seen it with a lot of people with mental health issues, it can be completely debilitating. That’s why we need to talk and find the help everybody needs” (quoted in Ho 2016).
Hrudey, whose daughter has dealt with mental health struggles, spoke of the need for social openness in addressing mental health: “I just know that when Dave was well and functioning in society, he was just so proud of what he was accomplishing. Those were the good days. It’s important we talk about mental health because Dave was more than what happened” (quoted in Ho 2016).
As is becoming all too frequent in the Canadian context, people struggling with mental health issues are subjected to often lethal intervention from police. Rather than supportive public health services, which are slow to come if at all, the response of police is quick and brutal. Of course an agency designed and organized for compliance and control, to putting down public signs of difference, are not at all suited to addressing mental health needs.
Ho, Clara. 2016. “Former NHL Star Says Mental Health Discussion Could Have Saved Friend Who Died in Police Shootout.” National Post. January 28. http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/former-nhl-star-says-mental-health-discussion-could-have-saved-friend-who-died-in-police-shootout
Wiebe, Stephanie. 2016. “David McQueen’s Son Remembers Father after Fatal Standoff with Calgary Police.” CBC News. January 27. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/david-mcqueen-son-remembers-loving-father-1.3422959