Remembering Tim McLean

Tim McLean. Please remember that name.

Every time I wonder whether I’m right to promote concealed carry and active firearms and self-defense training I think of this young man, Tim McLean. Tim was a Canadian. He was 22 years old and riding home to Winnipeg when he died.

Look for Tim on the Internet. His occupation is listed as carnival worker or barker. In plain language, a “carnie.” And we have been raised to believe that carnies are pickpockets—a low class of uneducated people who will steal from you and sneak around the neighborhood at night peeking in your windows and opening unlocked doors. In other words, they are people who need continuous watching, like skulking perverts and child molesters who have completed their jail sentence but are now loose on the streets. But really, very little is publicly known about Tim. Apparently an average guy. A nice guy. By calling him a “carnie,” we depreciate his youth, his humanity, even his integrity, and that allows us to ignore him as a person.

Tim was murdered six years ago by Vince Weiguang Li. Li is a 40-year-old university graduate. A computer software engineer. A naturalized Canadian struggling to learn a second language. He is described by a sympathetic CBC interviewer (who believed Li was as much a victim in the grisly killing as Tim McLean) as “soft spoken”—in other words, a sweet, gentle guy who “made a mistake” and deserves our loving compassion and gentle understanding.

On the evening of July 30, 2008, Tim was riding a Greyhound Canada bus on the Trans Canada Highway. A set of headphones over his ears, he fell asleep with his head resting against the bus window. Unbeknownst to Tim, the man sitting beside him had begun to experience a schizophrenic moment. That man was Li. The two men never spoke. There was no argument, no disagreement, and perhaps not even eye contact.

Twenty miles west of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Li pulled a knife and began to slash and hack Tim McLean. It was sudden. It was violent. The driver stopped and he and the 36 other passengers fled. So Li stabbed Tim and stabbed him again and then sawed off his head. In front of watching passengers and the responding Royal Canadian Mounted Police (whom he taunted through the closed doors of the bus), he began slicing off Tim’s body parts and chewing on them.

The terrible part of the story did not end with Tim’s brutal murder or Li’s capture. It began there.

Comb the Internet for information about Tim and you learn that he was a 22-year-old Canadian, a carnival worker. Period. On the other hand, there are dozens—scores—of sites that discuss the incident and Vince Weiguang Li. Apparently except by his relatives and friends, as a person, a human being, the young McClean has practically been forgotten, except as a victim and a “carnie.” Vince Weiguang Li on the other hand has become a celebrity, a cause célèbre.

Li was not sentenced to jail for life without parole, much less execution. The Canadians are too polite, too civil, too compassionate to execute anyone for a vile crime.

A Canadian court determined that Li was too ill for confinement. Instead, Li just needed treatment. And recently, the Canadian Criminal Code Review Board, based on the recommendations of Li’s doctors, decided that Li was free to go about his business in public again. Go free. Rebuild his life.

Lead psychiatrist Dr. Steven Kremer testified that Li, a schizophrenic, has stopped experiencing delusions and is a model, non-violent patient. Instead of the supervised outings Li had been granted previously, he will be allowed unescorted trips from the Selkirk Mental Health Centre into the nearby city of Selkirk. Canada’s prosecutor, one Susan Helenchilde, said Li was cooperative and that “the Crown” did not object to Li’s unsupervised release. Of course, everyone wants Li to take his medicine to prevent future “schizophrenic episodes.”

So Li, the insane murderer, is set free. He is in fact assisted and nurtured by a number of churches and private organizations, in part because he has now “found Jesus,” even though at the time of the murder he claimed God told him to kill Tim.

The innocent young kid looking to find himself and a peaceful life and someone to love and perhaps have children—and be whoever our free democratic societies will allow him to be with all the talents and energy he can muster—is forgotten. Ignored. Kicked into the ditch. Relegated to the garbage heap of history.

If Tim had been carrying, wearing body armor, if he had a black belt in karate, he could probably not have saved himself that day on the Greyhound bus in Manitoba. The attack was sudden. Unprovoked. Vicious. Still, everything about this story makes me angry. Absolutely everything.

Remember Tim McLean.

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