VANCOUVER - A 23-year-old who died after he was shot by transit police during a confrontation at a Vancouver-area grocery store was a gentle, caring young man, say his family and friends.
Naverone Woods was shot just after 8 a.m. on Sunday at a Safeway in Surrey, south of Vancouver, after officers responded to a call about a man demanding a knife from a nearby convenience store. Woods, who was described by police as "distraught," was rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Now, friends and family say they are in shock as they attempt to piece together what happened.
"I was wondering why he was alone," his great-uncle, Moses Wilson, said in a soft voice while speaking by phone from Hazelton. "I was very surprised. He's always with somebody."
Woods was a resident of the northern B.C. community of Hazelton who lived in Vancouver for several months earlier this year and recently visited the city for his uncle's funeral. Police said he had been staying in the Surrey area.
Wilson said he saw Woods at the funeral on Dec. 9 but wasn't sure whether he stayed in the area afterward. He said Woods appeared to be healthy and in good spirits at the time.
"He was himself, talking to young people and saying hello to my auntie and myself," he said.
Woods' great-aunt, Liz Woods, said the young man was a "very kind, considerate person," who never showed signs of being troubled.
Woods, who was a member of the Gitxsan First Nation, grew up in Terrace, B.C., said Wilson. He lived with his mother until she died when he was about 10 and then moved in with his older sister, Wilson said. Woods visited Hazelton often because his father and half-brothers lived there.
It's not clear when Woods moved to Hazelton, but his great-aunt Addie Nikal said he had worked at a campground in the area.
"He was fun to be with. He was caring," said Nikal, her voice breaking. "This is hard to talk about right now."
Raquel Gladstone, 22, lived with Woods in her mother's house in Vancouver for about three months this spring. Woods was her boyfriend's cousin and her brother's close friend, and he needed a place to stay, she said.
Gladstone said she didn't ask questions about why Woods was in Vancouver or what he was doing for work at that time. But she said the two bonded during his time in the city.
"He would always ask me how my day was. He could tell when I was angry. He would ask what's wrong and we would always talk. He was a good friend," she said.
"Everyone seemed to love him, too. He was funny, he was smart. He just got along with people."
Gladstone said she remains stunned by Woods' death. Though police have said he was "distraught" in the grocery store and caused a disturbance, Gladstone said she never knew him to suffer from mental health problems.
"He always seemed to be pretty happy," she said. "I was really in shock because I could never imagine him doing something like that. I didn't believe it. I was just like, 'No, that's not him.'"
She added that she heard through friends that he had planned to stay permanently in the Vancouver area after his uncle's funeral.
Independent Investigations Office, which investigates serious cases involving police officers, is handling the case. The office says investigators have spoken to 20 witnesses, reviewed video footage and recovered physical evidence from the scene.
A spokeswoman for the transit police said the officers who responded to the call about the man at the convenience store went to the Safeway after hearing a report on their radio that the suspect was inside.
Transit police in the Vancouver area became the first of their kind in Canada to carry guns in 2005. They receive the same amount of training as other officers in B.C., including in firearms handling and in mental health.
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