Kaiden Mintenko, 20, of Burnaby has been charged with second-degree murder in the Surrey stabbing death of 17-year-old Ethan Bespflug, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced Monday (April 17).
Ethan died in hospital after being stabbed April 11 while riding the Route 503 bus in the 9900-block of King George Boulevard. He was reportedly riding home from a friend’s house and had texted his mom that he was being threatened by “some kids” and was scared.
Police said at a presser on Monday, at BC RCMP Headquarters in Green Timbers, that the stabbing was a targeted attack and not a random one. IHIT said the suspect and victim knew each other through a third party.
Mintenko is in custody. He was arrested at a residence in Burnaby on April 16. His next appearance in Surrey provincial court is set for May 8.
“The individual who was arrested does have an association to the deceased,” Sgt. Tim Pierotti, of IHIT, said, adding the suspect is known to police. “We’re still working to determine exactly what the nature of the relationship is between them.”
Ethan is Surrey’s fifth homicide victim so far this year.
“It does come as a shock to me,” Ethan’s mom Holly Indridson said of the arrest and charge. “I’ve never heard his name around, only just I guess the girlfriend’s name of the guy, the man that’s charged. There’s always been a little bit of a bullying situation I guess the man charged and the girlfriend, like the girlfriend would bully my son.”
“I am quite in shock. I didn’t think, you know sometimes bullying you don’t think it’s going to take it so far as to murder.”
She said she’s pleased the suspect remains in custody. “No other family should have to through this pain,” Indridson told the Now-Leader.
“I’m glad that they worked on it so quickly, I’m so thankful for them, the detectives that were working on this. They were very sincere and sympathetic.”
Indridson, 38, has joined a club nobody wants to belong to, as yet another parent who’s lost a beloved child to mindless violence in Surrey.
“I’ve been through so many losses and this one, it’s crushed my will to live but I have to live, you know,” she said.
Before the night he was killed, when he texted that he was scared and threatened by other passengers, Ethan had never complained about riding bus or SkyTrain.
“Him and his friend would take the bus and SkyTrain, they’d take it downtown, they’d go to Brentwood Mall, they’d go to Metrotown, they utilized it so they could explore their surroundings and their world you know, as teenagers would. I don’t think at any time he felt unsafe and for this to happen on the bus…,” Indridson, an Abbotsford resident, trails off.
Authorities from Premier David Eby on down have expressed outrage at her son’s homicide and have promised enhanced police patrols on public transit in its wake.
“I’m hoping that they can put more security,” Indridson says of this. “When I was younger, there was a security guard or a transit police on the bus itself, when I was like 17.
“I thought there would be a lot more,” she says.
TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn vented about the crime during an unrelated presser in Surrey on Friday,
“I’m angry, we’re really angry, I’m very frustrated, I’m bothered by these events and as a parent of two transit-riding kids, every single day, I am concerned,” he said. “We will not allow criminals or those who want to commit crimes to come onto our system.”
“I’ll say as a father, I will say I was particularly shocked regarding the fatal stabbing of a teenager aboard one of our buses and our sincere condolences are with that young man’s family,” Quinn said.
“Our Transit Police have already stepped up patrols in crime hot spots and the forthcoming 24 community safety officers will allow police to further focus their efforts on criminal activity. We’re always looking for new ways to improve safety on transit and I want to emphasize that if anyone feels unsafe on our system they should immediately text Transit Police at any time at 87-7777.”
Indridson says two GoFundMe campaigns will help her surviving children and help put Ethan to rest. By press time, one set up by her sister-in-law Andrea Van Der Gracht had already raised $23,895 and one by another aunt, Daphni Miller, had raised $23,370.
“The outpouring of support and just people that are messaging me that are just, I don’t know them, but other mothers that are messaging me, the family, the friends, people I haven’t talked to since high school, it’s just amazing how communities come together but I just wish it wasn’t under these circumstances,” Indridson said. “I can feel it and I know Ethan is smiling down because that it’s what he would want in this type of situation, for his family not to feel alone and feel love and support.”
Her younger children “are devastated.
“My kids were all very close, they got along well, there’s very large age gaps between some of them. They connected in such a way that to me it was magical watching them together and Ethan was the largest piece of the puzzle.”
Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards, officer in charge of the Surrey RCMP, offered his condolences to Ethan’s friends and family.
“As being the parent of a teenager myself this is absolutely heartbreaking,” he said. “After all these years of being a police officer I still struggle with the senselessness of certain crimes. This is one of those crimes.”
Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke at Monday night’s council meeting also conveyed her “deepest condolences.
“As a mom, I cannot imagine the pain Ethan’s family is going through,” she said. “In addition to an increased police and security presence on transit, we are looking to arrange sustainable and long-term solutions. I will be reaching out to the premier, solicitor general and minister of health to ask for additional resources in policing and to make better use of technology to deter these crimes and identify the perpetrators.”
Meantime, Surrey RCMP said police have no reason to suspect Ethan’s stabbing was “in any way connected” to a man’s throat being slashed – also on a Route 503 bus – at Fraser Highway and 148 Street on April 1. That stabbing resulted in the suspect, Abdul Aziz Kawam, being charged with four terrorism-related offences, with Kawam accused of committing the crime on behalf of the Islamic State otherwise known as ISIS.
Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards, in charge of the Surrey RCMP, on what police are doing about violence on public transit. pic.twitter.com/so8jQeZ04A
— Tom Zytaruk (@tomzytaruk) April 17, 2023
Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth told reporters in Victoria there’s “a number of things under way” to crack down in violence on public transit.
“On Friday my director of police services met a number of times with the police agencies, the RCMP, Transit Police and other police agencies in the Lower Mainland in terms of identifying are there additional resources required, what actions are needed,” Farnworth said. “It’s my expectation to see an increased policing presence on our transit system.”
“This is an issue that is plaguing transit systems across the country,” Farnworth said.
Shirley Bond, of the British Columbia United Party (formerly BC Liberal Party), slammed the NDP government.
“Well, no amount of patting themselves on the back will bring comfort today to a family whose son was on a bus and didn’t get home,” Bond said.
“This Premier needs to stand up and acknowledge that people in British Columbia today are tired of the empty words. What they want is a Premier that will acknowledge the fact that they are afraid to take a bus in British Columbia. Who can possibly imagine that?”
On Saturday a 20-year-old man was stabbed at Surrey Central SkyTrain Station, making it the third stabbing on public transit in Surrey in three weeks. Transit Police Chief Officer Dave Jones said there are no “commonalities or linkages” between any of these cases.
“My emphasis here is this is an anomaly, the number of events that have occurred of this type of nature on the transit system. It moves hundreds of thousands of people every day,” Jones said. “There was no commonality between all of the events that have occurred, the separate incidents that have occurred.”
Const. Amanda Steed, spokeswoman for Metro Vancouver Transit Police, said uniformed officers assigned several units have been pulled from their regular duties have been assigned to buses and SkyTrain in Surrey. “We’re trying to saturate the system with a visible presence. We’ve also taken our detectives who work in a crime-suppression team – they’re in a plainclothes capacity so you might not see them but they are there – we’ve taken them from their day-to-day duties and put them in hot spots where we’ve identified where people aren’t feeling safe,” she told the Now-Leader.
As for two of the stabbings happening on a Route 503 bus, Steed said she doesn’t know if that’s a coincidence. “All of the stabbings that have occurred and slashings that have occurred they’re not connected in any way, there’s no evidence to suggest that they’re connected. But does that say that maybe the 503 is a route that we might need to look at a little but closer and perhaps improve our presence on that route? Absolutely.”
What’s fueling this recent violence is a question for the age.
“I don’t understand what’s happening, this is so abnormal, this is not normal, and we looked at other provinces who are having issues like this, with violence and weapons, and we were always lucky that that wasn’t happening to us but now for some reason in the last couple of weeks the world has just lost it,” Steed said.
Bigger, more complex issues are at play, she suggests, “not necessarily just a policing issue, where this violence is coming from.
“We have to ask ourselves, what has brought these people to this spot? Why are they in this position, why are they exhibiting more violence and using more weapons that they have in the past? And I think it has a lot to do with mental health, and the drug crisis, and social housing crisis. I also think COVID also had a huge impact, we were isolated for so long. People are struggling right now, people who are already on the edge of a mental health break, they’ve completely gone over the edge, and even people who didn’t suffer from any type of mental health before, they’re struggling.
“People are really on edge.”