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Violent Seawalk assault on stranger won't net criminal record

Attacker was suffering mental illness at the time of violent public beating in West Vancouver
A man who violently attacked a stranger on the West Vancouver Seawalk in March 2021 has been handed three years' probation.| Mike Wakefield, North Shore News file photo

A man who violently attacked a stranger on the Centennial Seawalk in West Vancouver, after being asked to social distance, will not have a criminal record after a judge ruled his psychosis would be better dealt with by the medical system.

Ming Xie, 33, of Vancouver, was handed a conditional discharge, which means he won’t have a criminal record as long as he obeys probation terms set by the court for the next three years.

Xie was handed those terms by North Vancouver provincial court Judge Robert Hamilton Tuesday (May 24) after pleading guilty earlier this month to assault causing bodily harm of a 62-year-old West Vancouver lawyer, who Xie attacked as he walked on the Seawalk with his wife on March 13, 2021.

At the time, Xie was suffering from a “significant mental illness that impaired his sense of reality,” said Hamilton.

Xie’s father had been very concerned about his son’s mental health in the days leading up to the assault, and had been calling for medical help, the judge noted, but added the attack happened before the medical system was able to stabilize Xie.

Crown counsel Adrienne Lee described in court how John Shields and his wife Audrey were walking on the Seawalk on a sunny morning when they passed Xie walking in the opposite direction and asked him to move over “to allow for social distancing.”

Punched in the head

Xie “rushed towards Mr. Shields, and punched him in the head twice with a closed fist, knocking him to the ground,” said Lee, then continued to punch and kick Shields in the head and body, while shouting that he “was racist.”

Xie stopped briefly, then resumed “repeatedly hitting and kicking him while he lay on the ground,” said Lee. “He was shouting that he was God and Mr. Shields was racist.”

Shields suffered a broken finger, cuts, bruises and broken teeth that required significant dental work as a result of the attack, said the prosecutor.

Xie was arrested a short distance away, said Lee, telling arresting officers that he was God and asking police if they were Satan.

Attack caused permanent injuries

In court, Shields read a victim impact statement describing how the assault had dramatically affected his life, causing permanent nerve damage and making him fearful of strangers.

“I did nothing to this person,” he said. “My wife is traumatized.”

Two days before the Seawalk attack in West Vancouver, Xie had walked into a BC Liquor store in Kerrisdale on West Boulevard, and began to yell about “racist white people” while smashing bottles of wine, said Lee.

A few minutes later, Xie entered a second liquor store, on West 41st Avenue.

“When the staff asked him to put on a mask, he became angry and threw three bottles of wine at the Plexiglas in front of the cash register,” breaking the Plexiglas, while yelling about “racist white people”, said Lee.

Two days after the Seawalk attack, Xie had also gone to a restaurant in Richmond managed by a woman he had casually dated, picking up a glass bottle and throwing it at a TV on a wall. Xie pled guilty in court to a charge of mischief stemming from that incident.

History of mental illness

According to a psychiatrist’s report, Xie has a history of mental illness and had stopped taking his medication at the time of the offences. He also has a history of using crystal meth and cocaine.

On the day he attacked Shields on the Seawalk, Xie believed “God was telling him he was Gabriel, the angel of death,” said Lee.

At the time, Xie was also preoccupied with “hidden messages about racism in the news,” said Lee. “When Mr. Shields stepped in front of him he thought he was a bad person.”

Xie’s defence lawyer Monique Dillon said Xie has struggled with mental illness since he was a child and has experienced “several episodes of racism” since coming to Canada with his family in 2000. That was the beginning of an obsession “with racist people,” said Dillon.

Xie is currently certified under the Mental Health Act and on extended leave from the Colony Farm forensic psychiatric hospital in Coquitlam, under conditions that require him to have an injection of anti-psychotic medication once a month, said Dillon.

Apology for actions

In court, Xie apologized for his actions. “It happened in my worse state of mind,” he told the judge. “I was crazy and out of my mind. I’m truly sorry about hurting someone. About everything.”

The judge said while the unprovoked and violent attack on a stranger was concerning, the public would be best served if Xie continued to be monitored by the medical system.

Hamilton granted Xie a conditional discharge with three years' probation, including terms to take all medication as directed by his medical team, keep away from alcohol and non-prescription drugs, not possess any weapons, and that he stay away from his victims and the West Vancouver Seawalk.

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