A homeless man from Aklavik, NWT, died from head injuries after fighting in a Whitehorse alley Friday night.
Jason Selamio, 37, was killed either by a punch to the head or by hitting his head against a brick wall, according to sources familiar with the incident.
“There’s two theories going around,” said Judy Lightening, shelter manager for the Salvation Army, just up the street from where Selamio died.
“He either hit his temple on the wall, or it was just a bad hit and he went out,” said Lightening, who heard the details from many of the shelter’s patrons.
“It wasn’t an act of revenge or anything,” she said. “It was just a drunken accident.”
Police disagree. They have charged Ryan Darbyshire, 24, with second-degree murder.
This means they believe Darbyshire intended to kill Selamio, although the attack was not premeditated.
At least four men and a couple of women were with Selamio at the time of his death.
The women tried to break up a fight, said Lightening, which happened before the Salvation Army opened at 6 p.m.
Selamio fell after receiving the fatal blow, but none of Selamio’s drinking buddies noticed he was out cold.
“They were all pissed,” said Lightening.
Selamio lay lifeless in the alley for an unknown period of time.
Meanwhile, a woman associated with the group fell down in the alley.
A neighbor called the police at 6:30 p.m., worried the woman had broken her arm, said Lightening.
When two RCMP officers came to investigate, they found Selamio’s body lying near the wall.
The officers questioned the people who were with Selamio. On Sunday evening, they arrested and charged Darbyshire.
“It’s been very stressful since Friday night,” said Lightening.
Both Selamio’s and Darbyshire’s families have been calling the shelter.
“We’ve got first cousins, uncles and nephews – everyone – calling,” said Lightening.
Lightening has been speaking with Selamio’s mother, who still lives in Aklavik.
Darbyshire is a good person and he wasn’t the type of person to get violent, she said.
“They’re grieving on both sides, in both families,” said Lightening.
Both men were known to suffer from alcohol addictions, she said.
The Salvation Army family has been in a somber mood since Selamio’s death.
Three patrons died in one week during the summer, said Lightening, but there was a chance for everyone to brace for that impact.
“When you have a death that’s classified as a homicide, it’s hard to respond,” she said.
The RCMP would not comment on the circumstances surrounding Selamio’s death.
“We can’t confirm or deny that,” said RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Don Rogers, referring to claims Selamio was killed in a fight.
Selamio was taken to Whitehorse General Hospital before being pronounced dead.
There is no word on where his body will be taken. The coroner could not be reached before press time.
Darbyshire will make his first court appearance on Wednesday.
On Tuesday afternoon, a handful of white roses and a note lay in the alley behind the Salvation Army, near the place where Selamio was killed.
“They’re street people,” said Lightening. “They live high-risk lives.”
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