“Did my employer show any compassion? No, they upped the stress level while my wife fought her now-losing battle with cancer[…]”
‘A nightmare before Christmas’
Man shoots former employer dead at Xmas party one day after being fired
Glenda Luymes and Katie Mercer, The Province [British Columbia]
Published: Sunday, December 14, 2008
A disgruntled former employee has been charged with killing his ex-boss at a company Christmas party Friday — one day after being fired.
Eric Allen Kirkpatrick, a 61-year-old Vancouver man, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of 40-year-old Benjamin “Ben” David Banky — the co-founder, president and CEO of TallGrass Distribution, a natural health product supplier.
“This is truly a nightmare before Christmas for this business,” said Vancouver Const. Tim Fanning.
Police say Banky was gunned down moments after a 4 p.m. company party at TallGrass Distribution’s headquarters at 40 East 5th in Vancouver.
“[The suspect] shot one man fatally right away. The shock was tremendous,” said Fanning.
Investigators believe Kirkpatrick came to the office Christmas party uninvited, armed with a firearm. He had been fired from his job Thursday.
After receiving a call, the Emergency Response Team surrounded the office building. There was no one inside, except the victim and the suspect, as a negotiator made contact. The suspect surrendered after about two hours.
Fanning could not reveal what the negotiations involved, but said Banky’s body was not desecrated. An autopsy will be done tomorrow.
About a dozen employees “managed to get out safely” without any further injuries.
A woman who answered TallGrass account manager Nicole Strashok’s home phone said that employees were still together in Vancouver last night for counselling.
Company spokesman John Paul Fraser said all 28 employees will be provided grief counselling. He expects they will resume business sometime “in the days ahead.”
Fraser said TallGrass will not release information about Kirkpatrick — including when he was hired, his position or why he was fired.
Fanning said Kirkpatrick was not currently known to police, but does have a criminal record. The last time Vancouver police had contact with him was in the late 1960s.
While not much is currently known about Kirkpatrick, the Globe and Mail’s website has comments written by someone of the same name and age describing their downward, stress-filled spiral after being fired from a different job.
“I had a very stressful job that just kept getting more stressful, then my wife got cancer,” Eric Allen Kirkpatrick wrote to the Globe and Mail website in July 2007.
“Did my employer show any compassion? No, they upped the stress level while my wife fought her now-losing battle with cancer,” the person wrote. “As a result, I developed epilepsy. Then I was fired and two weeks in the hospital undergoing tests confirmed that it wasn’t caused by physical trauma as initially thought but probably stress. Then my wife died and I’ll be on these nauseating anti-seizure medications the rest of my life.”
Dr. William Koch, a psychologist and clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of B.C., said it would take a number of variables to cause someone to snap violently at work. “They very often might have had histories of hostility or suspiciousness in the workplace,” he said.
“A person who would do this might have some kind of significant acute mental health problem, but more likely they are stressed and there are other multiple factors.”
Included in those factors are financial troubles, compounded by the credit crunch and the possibility of lost wages after being fired.
Local business owners and residents were still trying yesterday to piece together what they had seen.
From his auto-detailing business across the street from the office building, Farhan Bhimji also saw police on the street. He didn’t understand what was happening until he looked at the office building and saw a man with what appeared to be a hunting rifle or shotgun framed in one of the brightly lit upper windows.
“He wasn’t aiming at me . . . but obviously I shouldn’t be standing in the front,” said the owner of Showroom Auto Spa.
Bhimji moved to the back of his shop. Minutes later, police burst through the back door and told him they needed to use his storefront. Officers turned off the lights and hunched in front of his window. They told Bhimji to stay in the back.
About two hours after the standoff began, Kirkpatrick left the office building.
Next door, resident Luke Pigeon watched as an officer told Kirkpatrick to slowly get down on the ground. Another officer put him in handcuffs. “He didn’t say anything when he came out . . . I heard something like, ‘You’re cuffing me too tightly,’ but that was it,” Pigeon said.
Kirkpatrick wrote letters to the editor
Kent Spencer, The Province
Published: Monday, December 15, 2008
Labour issues were a favourite topic of a man named Eric Kirkpatrick, who frequently wrote letters to the editor.
Kirkpatrick, the same age as the accused killer and also a Vancouver resident, was published seven times in The Province and more than a dozen times in total in local and national publications.
One year ago in the Vancouver Courier, The Province’s sister paper, Kirkpatrick noted that “overtime can’t be forced on you. You needn’t be the subject of physical, verbal or sexual abuse by your boss or fellow employees. We know you can’t maintain a decent quality of life on $9 an hour.”
He weighed in on topics as diverse as big-box stores and tourism, but the common theme was work.
“[I] knew a fellow once that was fired after 13 years, told he was not a good fit. But the new employee at half his wages was!” Kirkpatrick wrote to the Globe and Mail two months ago.
In another letter to the Globe, he complained his employers had once “upped [my] stress level while my wife fought her losing battle with cancer. As a result I developed epilepsy. Then I was fired.”
His missives included pointed comments about Michael Walker, who he described as “a heartless right-wing ideologue” when Walker stepped down as head of the Fraser Institute in 2005.
“If the Fraser Institute had existed in an earlier time, we might not have had the Canada Pension Plan, employment insurance, medicare or minimum-wage and labour-standards laws,” Kirkpatrick wrote.
A 2003 letter to The Province noted he was an “occasional” pot-smoker. “Let’s get reasonable about this issue: Legalize it, control it, tax it and get on with solving the real problems of this mixed-up planet.”
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