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Whistler man dies after suspected drug overdose

Police Briefs: Pricy painting missing; shoplifting suspect on the loose



A Whistler man is dead after ingesting drugs a friend believes may have been laced with a deadly synthetic opioid that is on the rise across B.C.

Pemberton RCMP was dispatched to a home on Pemberton Meadows Road the morning of Saturday, Jan. 23 after a report of a "potential overdose," according to police. Although residents of the home as well as paramedics administered CPR, the 32-year-old man could not be revived.

With results from a toxicology report pending, at this point police are treating the death as a suspected cocaine overdose. A friend of the victim, however, suspects the drugs may have been laced with fentanyl, a fast-acting sedative with heroin-like effects.

"The toxicology reports are going to come in soon, but with everything that's happening and the way he was unresponsive and didn't wake up, (I suspect it was fentanyl)," said Shawn Kisielius. " I left him and he went back to Pemberton (Friday) night and he took some and didn't wake up."

The drugs are believed to have come from the Langley area. A small amount of drugs were seized at the scene, police said.

A hundred times stronger than morphine, fentanyl is often passed off as other recreational drugs and has been linked to a rash of drug overdoses in recent weeks, including four in the Vancouver area and as many as eight in Greater Victoria.

The drug is manufactured in pill form, often sold as oxycontin or other club drugs, and in powder form.

With the spike in use, Kisielius is calling for free, anonymous drug testing kits to be made available similar to the harm-reduction measures in place at the Shambhala Music Festival near Nelson.

"I think there's a need for it," he said. "I think we can save some lives by doing a project like this."

Whistler RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair said he has yet to come across any confirmed cases of the dangerous opioid in Whistler or Pemberton, but acknowledged it's a growing issue in the Lower Mainland.

Kisielius warned it's a tragedy that could happen to anyone.

"Everyone says you don't see it coming," he said. "(My friend) was big and strong and healthy, so don't think you're invincible, don't think you're an exception."

Between 2009 and 2014, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse reported more than 1,000 fentanyl-related deaths across the country.

Symptoms come on quickly, depending on the dose, and are similar to other opiates, with users having difficulty breathing and often becoming drowsy or even unconscious.

Drug users are advised to never use alone and to start with small doses. Mixing substances, including alcohol, increases risk. Call 911 immediately if an overdose is suspected.

$25K painting goes missing from gallery storage unit

A painting with a hefty price tag went missing from a local art gallery's storage unit earlier this month, police said.

A U.S. buyer purchased the work by Canadian painter Jane Waterous on Jan. 3 from a Mountain Square gallery. It was moved to a nearby storage unit for shipping before it was noticed missing on Jan. 14. It was last seen the night before.

Police said it's unclear how the painting went missing as there was no sign of forced entry into the alarmed storage unit. Mounties are currently reviewing surveillance footage to try and identify a suspect.

The piece consists of the word "love," with each letter divided into two columns outlined with multicoloured, raised 3D paint blotches that "look like small dancing persons" on a white canvas background, explained LeClair. It's valued at over $25,000, police said.

Anyone with information is urged to call the local detachment at 604-932-3044, or contact BC Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.

A surveillance photo of a suspect who allegedly stole a $700 jacket from a village store this month. - PHOTO SUBMITTED
  • Photo Submitted
  • A surveillance photo of a suspect who allegedly stole a $700 jacket from a village store this month.

Police trying to ID man seen stealing $700 jacket on camera

A middle-aged man caught on surveillance footage earlier this month lifting an expensive jacket from a local store has yet to be identified by police.

On Jan. 9, Whistler RCMP responded to a report of shoplifting at a village retail shop, where an employee told officers a man was caught on camera "selecting, concealing and leaving the store" with the $700 jacket. A security tag was also located near the spot the jacket was taken from, police said.

The man in the video is described as Caucasian, about 5-10 in height, approximately 60 years of age with thinning, slicked back grey hair wearing a black jacket and grey scarf.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Whistler RCMP at 604-932-3044, or call BC Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.