A gentle spirit. An animal lover. A beacon of light.
That’s how Hazelton resident Tracey Woods remembers her brother-in-law Naverone Woods, who was killed in a confrontation with transit police in the Lower Mainland on Dec. 28.
The 23-year-old Hazelton man was shot by South Coast B.C. Transit Authority officers during an incident at a Safeway store in Surrey, south of Vancouver, and was pronounced dead soon after he arrived at hospital.
The officers had heard about a man with a knife causing a disturbance at the grocery store.
As the B.C. Coroners Service and the Independent Investigations Office continue to investigate Woods’ death, his family in Hazelton are struggling to comprehend what could have happened.
Tracey Woods said Naverone, who lived with her and his stepbrother Ed Patsey for three years, was a “gentle giant” who had no history of mental illness.
She said he had never shown a violent side, despite facing significant challenges in his life.
Born at the Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton in 1991, Naverone Christian Landon Woods was the son of Gwen Woods and Ron Patsey.
He had a difficult childhood, losing his mother at the age of 12, but he thrived as a teenager playing soccer and hockey while attending Hazelton Secondary School.
He graduated from HSS in 2009 and worked as a carpentry labourer with his dad and brothers before moving to Surrey.
Tracey said he enjoyed city life, and had been working part-time in construction before he died.
“He was quite proud of that,” she said.
“He had told us he got a part-time job and then within a week he had a message on Facebook saying he was offered full-time employment.”
Since his death, Tracey said it had been difficult for the family to grieve in the media spotlight.
She said negative publicity and social media comments had painted her brother-in-law as a “monster,”,which she said was simply untrue.
“It was hard, it angered a lot of us because they had painted him out to be this disturbed young man and he isn’t,” she said.
“He’s had lots of challenges in his life and none of it has ever affected him to a point where he is going to be violent.”
At a funeral service at Gitanmaax Hall in Hazelton last Wednesday, Naverone was remembered as a “truly gentle spirit.”
“He walked softly,” read the eulogy written by Tracey and Naverone’s sister Melanie.
“Nav was respectful to all he came into contact with … he had jokes to share and big hugs to give to whoever needed one.”
Tracey said she did not want to speculate what happened on the day Naverone died.
Instead, she is waiting for more information from the Independent Investigations office.
In the meantime, she said the family wanted the public to know the Naverone that she knew.
“He was just a big, friendly giant,” she said.
“That’s what everybody remembers him as.”