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Blood, crime-scene markers on the sidewalk on troubled Spencer Street
Warning: This story contains graphic content
On a troubled downtown street desperate for help, another serious incident on Wednesday left residents wondering when that help will come.
Witnesses told The Telegram it was in the morning, around 9:30 a.m., when they heard the screams, and eventually saw a bloodied man taken away to hospital.
Video from the scene on Spencer Street pic.twitter.com/7FW9zkqQBk— Keith Gosse (@TelyPhotoGosse) October 21, 2020
They saw splatters of his blood leaving a trail down the sidewalk of Spencer Street, which is located between Freshwater and Merrymeeting Road.
"I heard a lot of yelling and screaming, and swearing. And that’s not out of the ordinary for the street, but the intensity and the length of the shouting match was a little bit out of the ordinary," said one neighbourhood resident.
"Then all of a sudden, it got very quiet. So, it was like, lots of yelling and screaming and swearing for a couple of minutes — quite intense — and then dead quiet. I was like, ‘Woah, that ended quickly.’
"Then a couple of minutes later, (I) saw the lights flashing and there was four police cars, two ambulances, and an unresponsive man in very bad shape on the ground. There was no reviving him, no talking to him. They put him in the ambulance."
"There was four police cars, two ambulances, and an unresponsive man in very bad shape on the ground. There was no reviving him, no talking to him. They put him in the ambulance."
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) said the man was taken to hospital to be treated for serious injuries.
The RNC’s Major Crime Unit is investigating.
'More than blood'
The street was cordoned off with police tape on Wednesday, and several evidence markers dotted the sidewalk, marking blood droplets.
A witness told The Telegram a man who appeared to have head injuries and who was covered in blood was taken away in the ambulance. Another person told The Telegram screams were heard about the time of the incident.
A resident said they heard an argument with maybe three to five people's voices. The resident said they weren't sure if the man who was injured was a part of the argument or not.
"People were yelling things, like, ‘What are you doing? You’re breaking into someone’s house!’ or something like this, and then I heard someone else yell, ‘Do it! Do it!’ Like, do what? That’s probably what it was — beating the guy."
A neighbourhood resident told The Telegram it appeared, based on the evidence markers, that the man came from the top of the street.
"And where he collapsed it really doesn’t look good. ...There’s, like, more than blood there. There’s, like, a piece of scalp, maybe some brain matter, or something. It is not good. ...It made me sick to my stomach seeing it."
Wednesday’s incident marks a long series of concerns plaguing residents in the area.
As The Telegram previously reported last month, events of a violent and criminal nature seem to be escalating, according to people who have lived on the street for some time.
And police say they get a high volume of calls for the street.
Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) media relations officer Const. Jason Walsh previously told The Telegram police have responded to Spencer Street 111 times between Jan. 1 and Sept. 9 this year.
“Obviously, that seems like a high volume of calls for just a small street in our centre city, in our downtown area. So, that certainly relays to us that there is an issue that needs to be addressed in that area,” said Walsh.
“It’s very clear that there is a regular police presence there, and I can imagine that that would be upsetting to some of the residents.”
It's now reached a point where several groups, including provincial government departments and city officials, are meeting to try to find a collaborative, holistic approach to addressing the issues faced by vulnerable people on the street who are dealing with mental health concerns, drug use, and property management issues.
"We never felt unsafe until the gunshots a few months ago," a neighbourhood resident told The Telegram on Wednesday.
"But here’s the thing: usually an event like that, you’d figure things would calm down, but things have only gotten worse since the gunshots.
"And I don’t know if it’s feuding groups of drug traffickers, or if it’s just the users involved — if this is street-level stuff, if there’s nothing organized about it. But it seems like there are factions on the street that fight each other.
"Seeing buddy on the ground, and the blood, and whatever the other stuff is — that’s creepy."
"I don’t know if it’s feuding groups of drug traffickers, or if it’s just the users involved — if this is street-level stuff, if there’s nothing organized about it. But it seems like there are factions on the street that fight each other."
An area resident pointed to the risk-taking behaviour that sometimes comes with the issues faced by some residents of the street.
"There’s a lot of risky activity and violence that can come with it when you owe people money, and I think that’s what a lot of it boils down to — money and desperation, precarious housing situations.
"And the way we ghettoize poverty in this city. We’ve got five or six rooming houses on this street, where in most cities you try to have five per cent of all housing on every street would be low income, or supportive housing or something. But in St. John’s, we create these ghettos for the poor. So, then you get this critical mass of drug use, and addiction and violence."
RNC seeks information
In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, the RNC said it was early in the investigation, but they will update the community with any concerns related to public safety once that information is available.
Police asked that anyone with information to assist the investigation, or with CCTV or dash camera footage, contact the RNC at 729-8000 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Information can also be provided anonymously online at nlcrimestoppers.com.