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Red Deer Man Shot to Death

Updated: May 4

His name was Derek Deon. That is but one thing we should remember about this fatal incident. As a person who lives with mental illness, specifically schizophrenia, the recent killing of a man who shared my condition by the Red Deer RCMP is terrifying. It could have happened to me, or to one of my friends and colleagues who live with this illness. It did happen to Derek. I did not know Derek, but I empathize with this poor soul who suffered not only from his illness, but from the stigma and judgement that victimizes those of us unlucky enough to have this diagnosis.

As a person with schizophrenia, I face, almost daily, slurs and stereotyping from some family members and the general public, who assume, wrongly, that I am incapable of controlling my behaviour and am thus unpredictable and prone to violence. These people are fed garbage by TV shows like Criminal Minds, hysterical news programming, and bullshit internet posting. They do not see my personhood, who I am, or even care that I am much more likely to be a victim of violence and manipulation by so-called normal people than I am to inflict said crimes upon others.

I had the unfortunate luck to be diagnosed with schizophrenia around the same time a man, unmedicated and possibly undiagnosed, horrifically killed another human being on a Greyhound bus. This image, among others, is the lasting impression my own father has of people who live with schizophrenia. It seems that upon the moment of my diagnosis, I ceased to be human and instead became “schizophrenic.”

I am not, nor was Derek Deon, just “schizophrenic.” We are people who live with a condition that complicates lives, yes, but we are also sons, brothers, husbands, friends, and team members. We are artists, writers, musicians, even scientists and professional athletes. We are human. I can think of, and easily find information on, important contributions to the world from people such as Vincent van Gogh and Albert Einstein's son, Eduard Einstein, who made a name for himself in his own right. These are but two individuals on the list of the millions of people throughout history who have had this disease. Even though there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we are treated as if we are violent criminals.

I imagine when some family members and former friends think of me, they connect me with the likes of school shooters and terrorists. This, despite the fact most terrorists and shooters are quote unquote normal. Truthfully, as a society and as individuals, people have much more to fear from the public than from people who have schizophrenia. "Regular" people inflict far more damage upon society than people with schizophrenia ever could. I have been told I should not fly or visit people far away because I might "freak out" and attack others due to my anxiety or my presence in an unfamiliar environment. This came from someone who claims to know me, to love me, and who earnestly believes their assessment of "schizophrenics" is accurate. This person must not appreciate who I am or what my capabilities are, and has apparently forgotten airports have security measures against bringing potential weapons on planes, or that they screen flyers to weed out problem passengers. This is irrational hysteria, and it is something people with schizophrenia face constantly.

It must be so that such widespread ignorance and hostility found a home among the RCMP. Otherwise, why would a man holding a steak knife in his own home be shot dead by 3 policemen with assault rifles and tasers? This overwhelming show of force against one person who happened to be mentally ill, and statistically more of a danger to himself than any other person, is completely and totally unacceptable.

I was not present at Derek's shooting death and did not witness the circumstances of that fateful day, but I will not accept the narrative that 3 heavily armed and highly trained men wearing body armor and possessing the option of tasers, so feared for their collective lives they could not see any other possible option other than to shoot and kill this man. Who should we really fear?

Derek, I am sorry you met your end this way. I am sorry for the fear and stigma you experienced. I am sorry you were shot to death by people called to help you, and I am sorry for the stereotypes and lack of education that led to this letter. It is my sincere hope you are at peace, finally, as I write this.


Joshua Wiebe

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