Saturday, August 2, 2008

Prairie Awful

by Pa Rock

Earlier this week a quiet young man was stabbed to death and beheaded as he was traveling across the Canadian prairie on a Greyhound bus. The victim was 22-year-old Tim McLean, a carny who was en route home to visit his parents, sisters, and little brother in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He had boarded the bus in Edmonton, Alberta, the site of his most recent carnival employment.

Also boarding in Edmonton was Vince Weiguang Li, a forty-year-old newspaper carrier who worked for, among other papers, The Edmonton Sun. Li was the attacker in this bizarre crime. According to witnesses he initially sat in the front of the bus. After a stop in Manitoba where he stepped outside and had a cigarette and some polite conversation with a lady passenger, he re-boarded the bus and moved to the back where he sat down next to McLean - who was dozing with his head resting on the window.

Twelve miles outside of Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, while passengers were napping or watching "The Legend of Zorro" on their seat monitors, the air was cut with a "bloodcurdling scream" coming from behind them. Turning in horror, they saw the attacker standing next to his victim and repeatedly stabbing him in the chest with a "Rambo" hunting knife. The rear section of the bus was quickly turning bright red from the grisly arterial spray. The driver managed to get the bus stopped, and the passengers fled in panic.

The driver, a passenger, and a passing truck driver went back on the bus to see if anything could be done for the victim, and to attempt to subdue the attacker. As they entered they saw Li on the floor trying to cut off McLean's head. The driver managed to disable the bus before the knife-wielding attacker left his business on the floor and rushed at them, forcing the three would-be rescuers off of the bus. The three were able to barricade Li on the bus until the police arrived. During that standoff, the killer brought McLean's head up to the front of the bus to show the terrified on-lookers.

Those were the facts as gleaned from The Edmonton Sun and Yahoo News. Those who are desirous of more gory details should park themselves in front of any cable news show. I'm sure that somewhere tonight Nancy Grace and Geraldo are embroiled in a bidding war for the severed head, so there will be more "news."

This was the story of a nexus in the lives of two people. One was obviously psychotic, probably hearing voices - Jesus, the Queen, Bob Marley - who knows. His background may have included extensive drug use, childhood trauma, and lapsed mental health care. (Oddly, he had no criminal history.) Chances are good that he had been prescribed anti-psychotic drugs but wasn't taking them. Thousands of men and women just like him are sleeping on America's sidewalks tonight, and more than a few are zoned out, going nowhere on a Greyhound bus.

The person whose life path crossed that of Vince Li at the worst possible moment was a slight young man, roughly seventy pounds lighter than his assailant. Friends say Tim McLean had never had a fight in his life, and he usually tried to avoid contact with others. When he did socialize, it was over a card game or an all-night game of Risk. He worked the carnival circuit because he liked to travel and see different places. All that he wanted that last afternoon of his life was to catch some shut-eye before he got back to his family in Winnipeg.

Tim McLean and Vince Weiguang Li had no history between them and they exchanged no words, but they will forever be linked in an indelible bloodstain on the Canadian prairie. McLean didn't expect to die that day, and Vince Li probably didn't expect to kill, but something happened in the mind of one that ended the life of the other, and the peaceful prairie will forever be mocked with that awfulness of that happenstance encounter.

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