Ever wondered how you would react if confronted with absolute atrocity? What if suddenly you were faced with a situation beyond your rational, critical perspective, something that crossed the lines of comprehension? How would you respond when gazing into the heart of darkness, when confronted by an out of control maniac? I know I’ve often wondered. Many, many nights indeed I have lain awake wondering just how I would respond to a situation in which dread is the primary defining factor; a moment in which everyone around me is seized with fear, paralyzed into submission.
Just what would I do when the unthinkable happens, when reality blurs with fiction and evil bestrides the Earth in human form?
I like to think that I would respond to the moment unhesitatingly, that I would fly into action and be a hero, trading gladly my own life for that of a stranger if required. I comfort myself with the thought that surely I wouldn’t stand numbly by if someone else was being seriously beaten, robbed, raped or murdered. I would respond… wouldn’t I?
But there’s a part of me that wonders if this is entirely true, if I wouldn’t instead become, like so many others, a useless rubber spectator with no ability to function. Maybe I, too, would seize up and resort to filming the incident with my smart phone like everybody else, unable to do anything useful to prevent or stop it.
Such an incident occurred in Manitoba aboard a Greyhound bus 1170 on the Trans Canada Highway approximately 18 miles west of Portage La Prairie on July 30th, 2008. I have trouble believing that today marks the six year anniversary of the event, for it seems like just yesterday to me somehow. I remember hearing the horrific story for the first time with a startling clarity and being beyond appalled. And I recall having nightmares after hearing about the ghastly events of that ill-fated night.
I remember reading that a man, Vincent Weiguang Li, had decided to stab another unsuspecting passenger sitting beside him with an enormous ‘Rambo style knife’, bought at Canadian Tire just before the trip, while the man slept, without provocation. The sudden attack could not have been prevented, for Li stated later that God had told him to do it. Earlier in the trip he had moved from the front of the bus to the rear specifically to sit beside his victim Timothy Mclean, who, Li believed, was a ‘force of evil’ or an ‘alien’ that wanted to ‘execute him’.
And things just got worse. Much worse.
I won’t outline every detail of the gruesome incident, but highlights included:
- Li stabs Tim Mclean in the throat and chest repeatedly [approximately 40 times]. As he futilely fights back in desperation, Mclean becomes mortally wounded.
- Li decapitates McLean and presents his trophy to the 36 horrified passengers gathered outside the bus, many of whom were vomiting or crying.
- Li proceeds to hack and slice off parts from the victim’s body with the knife and a scissors and eats them while parading around the gore-drenched bus.
“The bus looked like a butcher shop… McLean’s ear, nose and tongue were found in Li’s pockets. His eyes and a part of his heart were never recovered and it goes without saying that [Li] ate them. There were some bloody parts strewn across the dashboard.” 
The whole occurrence reads like some horrific Michael Slade fiction, like something from The Silence of the Lambs, but without the subtlety, and it only worsened with the appearance of the RCMP after 8:30 pm that night. A bizarre standoff between trapped maniac Li and an RCMP Tactical Unit occurred. Li, aboard the mechanically disabled bus, was not subdued and arrested for nearly five hours. Let me repeat this: five hours. On July 31, 2008, at 1:30 a.m. Li was finally restrained after an eternity of bureaucratic fumbling and ‘special negotiation’. Only after Li punched out a bus window, (presumably out of boredom), was he finally tased and restrained and stuffed into a police car. 
Does anything seem wrong with this outcome? The question that instantly comes to my mind is ‘why is the man still alive now at all?’ I recall thinking at the time: ‘how could nobody from a police tactical unit have gunned Vincent Li down like a mad dog in the street?’ My God, the man was waving a knife and charging officers, pausing only to continue dismembering and dining on the corpse of an innocent man. Certainly such prudence and restraint has never been seen on the part of any police force any time before or since the Li Greyhound incident. Ironically, later, when Li appeared before the courts charged with second-degree murder, he reportedly uttered pleas for someone to “please kill” him. He also mumbled that he was “guilty” at least four times.  Evidently even Vincent Li, himself, expected to die for his heinous actions and was surprised when it never came.
And yet, to this day, Vincent Li lives on. We can exclude asking trivial questions like: ‘how did Vincent Li come to immigrate into Canada in the first place in 2005, being only capable of working such menial vocations as Wal-Mart retail clerk (a job from which he was fired), fast food attendant, newspaper delivery person and forklift operator?’  We needn’t dwell on the fact that his English skills were grossly inadequate and created constant friction wherever he was employed. Suggesting that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) should have identified him as sub-standard would imply that we as a country have any such serious benchmarks. As with many Canadian immigrants, Li was granted citizenship despite a great many shortcomings.
By now we all have heard the reasons why Vincent Li was spared as well. Thanks to the Liberal Media spin doctors, we came to learn of Li’s ‘disability’, and the legal systems’ sympathetic treatment of the man because of his Schizophrenia. Li was a Victim, didn’t you know? His was a ‘diseased mind’ and therefore not ‘criminally responsible’ for any of his actions. Quack Social Workers and professional Psychiatrists told us so. Justice John Scurfield ruled it so, pronouncing that “[Li] did not appreciate the act he committed was morally wrong. He believed he was acting in self-defense and that he had been commanded by God to do so”  and thus Vincent Li went to a Selkirk mental institution instead of the whipping post and the gallows as he rightfully ought to have.
Li apparently deserved our “compassion”, and it became painfully clear that the term ‘justice’ therefore did not apply… according to the experts at least.  Even Li summed it up for us in his own words “It was totally wrong. It was my fault. I sinned. But it was the Schizophrenia.” He was self-admittedly guilty, but the Schizophrenia somehow got inside him, like a puppeteer’s hand inside a sock. Only tolerance and a diet of Olanzapine could make it better. 
But the reluctance of our sham Legal System, the doublespeak of the so-called “Mental Health Professionals”, and the misguided sympathies of the public at large aside, where, may I ask, were the real men aboard bus 1170 on that awful summer night six years ago? Where were the vigilantes, and why did they not escort Li from the bus to a readymade hanging party? Where, among 36 passengers aboard the bus, were the men capable of setting aside their fears and making right what had so obviously gone wrong?
According to the records, two men accompanied by the bus driver (armed with a hammer and a tire iron), did actually attempt to approach Li with intentions of stopping the madness, but were chased away by the lunging, frothing madman. I salute these peoples’ efforts, but I am not satisfied that this was a sufficient attempt (with still 33 people waiting safely outside the bus). I would ask: if the same thing had happened even thirty years ago (a hypothetical albeit rhetorical question, I know), would things have played out the same way in the end? Perhaps so, but most likely not, I would conjecture. It is my opinion that nobody from my father’s or grandfather’s generation would have stood for any of Li’s behaviour. Men, armed with sticks, rocks and fists would have dragged Li screaming from the bus and they would have put him down.
Vigilante, from the Latin word ‘vigilantem’, meaning: ‘watchful, anxious, careful’ , is defined as: ‘a member of a volunteer committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily’. Or, a ‘member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because the legal agencies are thought to be inadequate.’
I wouldn’t go so far as to say RCMP efforts were inadequate, but undoubtedly they were poor at best. Alright, let’s be serious… they were grossly inadequate. The length of time it took to subdue Li was simply unacceptable and left virtually everyone (including the officers) involved with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from having been made to watch the gibbitude unfold. Now, I realize that responding officers had to observe protocols and obey the commands of their superior officers not to fire upon Vincent Li. The attending officers were handicapped by their own institution and unable to shoot, which, I’m sure, they very much wanted to. But, my God, this was a police tactical unit; what ever happened to tear gas, rubber bullets, flash bang grenades, pepper spray, shields, batons… anything?
We have only to look to the recently deceased RCMP Corporal, Ken Barker, for an example of how high the price of the Li experience must have been for each of the officers involved, for a glimpse at what inaction cost the first responding officers. On July 24, 2014 Ken Barker, a recently retired RCMP officer that had attended and dealt first hand with the Vincent Li horrorteria, committed suicide after a long battle with PTSD, an illness which “didn’t just force him to retire — it also cost him his marriage.”[Barker’s] treatment was coming along — and while he was still a dog handler, he was stationed at the airport and bus depots instead of responding to slayings — but last fall things began changing.
With Vince Li getting in the paper about his walks, [Barker] started getting flashbacks. It was a very rapid decline in the last six months. He sent text messages like ‘I think I’m too broken to ever be fixed’ and he would also say ‘I wish I had cancer because then people would understand.’ 
It is my belief that Corporal Ken Barker and the other responding officers wanted to do the right thing on that night of dread and terror. It is furthermore my opinion that they were prevented from doing so, ordered not to. They, too, had the option of vigilantism, of doing what was right, and chose docile obedience instead. The resulting moral conflict of not shooting Li, of having to instead arrest and incarcerate him, clean him up and feed him must have been a strain indeed.
And then, to stand by helplessly while any semblance of real justice slipped away and the convenient label of ‘criminal insanity’ was applied. To watch while the mother of Tim Mclean struggled in vain to keep Li locked away while the mental health establishment sought ever greater freedoms for the man. And finally, to face the prospect of Li’s full release. Praise God, he was completely cured! It must have been more than Corporal Barker could bear. And then, to be labelled as mentally ill, he himself, being classified as having PTSD and relegated to menial, unimportant tasks and then the eventual scrapyard of retirement.
It was more than a real man could tolerate. The cost of not obeying one’s moral instincts and ignoring the call of vigilantism is a terrible one indeed,
So I must ask again: if tomorrow you should find yourself faced with a Vincent Li (or quite possibly the Vincent Li) aboard a bus or on a plane or beneath your family bed, what would you do? When others are in dire need and the freshly ‘rehabilitated’ and released Vincent Li is cannibalizing another unarmed man, will you be among those who step up to defend the innocent, or just another of the frail spectators seemingly everywhere nowadays? Will you act and fight when faced with a psychopathic fiend, or, like so many others, resign yourself to do nothing, to follow orders, or, worst of all, to take pictures with your camera phone? After all, Li’s doctors tell us he “willingly takes his medication understands the importance of doing so” . There is only a 1% chance he might experience ‘recidivism’ and reoffend . Someday we may each get the chance to experience bus 1170 firsthand.
What will you do?