Rick Eldridge admits he lost his temper, but he wants to be a security guard once again and patrol West Victoria Street, which he said needs better police presence.
The former Lapper security guard left the profession when a video surfaced of him kicking a man outside a storage facility for the homeless at 48 Victoria St. W. on March 17. The 25-second clip aired on CFJC-TV a week later, showing a man swearing at Eldridge, who wrestled him to the ground and kicked him before the man stood back up and the situation eventually de-escalated.
Eldridge said the video didn’t show what led to the altercation.
He said he was trying to move the man, a person he dealt with daily, out of the no-loitering zone at the side of the building, but the man pushed him after he told him to leave. Eldridge said he responded with a knee to the man’s stomach. Eldridge said the man fell to the ground, got back up, continued the argument and spat in his face, leading to what was caught on video.
“I lost it. I don’t like people spitting in my face,” Eldridge said, noting he felt he was defending himself when the man spit in his face, though he admitted the knee may have been excessive.
The video, however, ruined his life, Eldridge said, noting he received 20 death threats in a day after it was aired.
Feeling unsafe on the job, he gave two weeks’ notice and was reassigned, but said he was fired during that period and had his security guard licence temporarily suspended by the provincial Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General’s Security Programs Division.
Jobless and not yet on employment insurance, Eldridge said he lost the apartment he was renting, ending up homeless and sleeping in his car along the route he once patrolled.
Eldridge is now hoping to return to security work.
He said an investigator is reviewing his licence suspension and advised he is recommending the licence be reinstated.
If Eldridge does get his licence returned, he wants to start doing his own security work, possibly by securing contracts with individuals businesses on West Victoria Street once Lapper’s contract with the municipality, BC Housing and the Canadian Mental Health Association for the area has ended.
“I really love these people,” Eldridge said, noting many business owners wrote him letters of support for his licence review. “The business owners on this street are some of the greatest people in this city — they backed me from the get-go, so I want to stay on this street, I want to protect these businesses.”
Audra Domich, owner of Audra’s Day Spa on Victoria Street West, said she misses having Eldridge on patrol.
“The only time we ever felt like we had a security guard was when he was there,” Domich said.
Domich said Eldridge was a constant presence and would check in all the time — which she said hasn’t been the case from other Lapper guards since his departure.
Eldridge said he has had assurances from a financial backer to get his security company going, adding that a business along the street is willing to donate space for an office.
In the meantime, Eldridge has been handing out cards for the Vision Quest recovery centre in Logan Lake to anyone along Victoria Street West who wants one. He said he wants to see more done to help the marginalized and homeless population, which he pointed to as causing most of the issues for businesses along the street.
Property crime, drug use and nuisance behaviour has become well known along the route, which has become concentrated with social-agency supports.
Eldridge believes there needs to be better security and police presence in the area. He also feels the RCMP has abandoned the street, citing examples of incidents he has learned of, in which business owners have called police about an incident, but did not receive a response of felt their call was not investigated thoroughly.
Earlier this month, Domich said she called both security and police after a man in her parking lot brandished a large knife at her husband before fleeing. She said a half-hour went by before a security guard responded, but noted no RCMP officer has shown up to date to take her statement or seize the knife, which her husband managed to take off the man.
Eldridge believes a community police office on Victoria Street West, staffed with just one officer, would deter crime along the street, especially if that constable patrolled periodically with security personnel.
“It would bring it down a bit,” he said. “it’s not going to solve it, but they would see a police presence and if he got into trouble, I freaking guarantee there’d be 10 cop cars here.”