Only hours before Vincent Li allegedly beheaded a passenger on a Greyhound bus travelling across Manitoba, the 40-year-old man was reportedly sitting peacefully on a bench in Erickson, Man., haggling with a local teen over the price of his laptop.
Fifteen-year-old Darren Beatty and his mother Dorothy Beatty said police seized a laptop belonging to the accused killer after Darren bought it from Li Wednesday morning, only hours before the gruesome death of Tim McLean aboard the Greyhound bus.
Dorothy Beatty said her son saw Li several times Tuesday and Wednesday, discussing a severely discounted price for the laptop, then returning twice later to pay the man $60 in cash and getting the laptop's password.
"He seemed like such a nice guy when I talked to him. He was not mean or fidgety or anything," said Darren Beatty, who said he was not threatened by Li's presence on a Main Street park bench in the town of 500.
"He had, like, no emotion to him, but he didn't seem like he was a very nasty guy. He just seemed calm and normal."
Darren Beatty said the computer contained resumés with the name Vince Weiguang Li at the top. There were also photos of fighter jets and female Chinese models, he said.
The laptop contained school schedules, job resumés, e-mails written in Chinese and innocuous nature photos, said Dorothy and Maurice Beatty, after the couple perused the laptop's contents to ensure no X-rated material was on it.
"The pictures were of planes and mountains, and I think pictures of B.C.," said Dorothy Beatty. "I just took a glance at it. I didn't really get right into it, because at the time, we had no idea.
"This was just some guy's laptop, something you or I would have... there was nothing erratic and nothing gruesome. It was just a regular computer."
Dorothy Beatty explained that her son saw Li sitting on the bench Tuesday night while he bicycled by, and then again on Wednesday morning on his way to work as a gas jockey at a local gas station. During Darren's coffee break, Dorothy said her son eyed the computer lying out for sale.
"He saw the laptop sitting on the sidewalk with a sign saying '$600 O.B.O.', so Darren went over and took a look," she said.
Initially, she said the deal her son made struck her as a lucky bargain, with Darren proposing $100 for the laptop, then $50, and Li countering with a $60 price.
Darren told his mother he went to a local bank, withdrew cash and returned to Li to buy the computer.
Her son perceived no threat to his safety from the quiet man, she said, and she later told her son he got a bargain.
"I thought, 'Right on,' " she said. "The only time (Li) came up was when they were negotiating. He got up from the bench and talked to Darren on the sidewalk. And then, while Darren got the money, he took the computer back to the bench and shook Darren's hand and took the money and counted it."
Darren said Li tried to sell him a bag for the laptop for $35, but Darren told him he didn't have any more money. In the end, he said the man gave him the bag for free.
After the teen went home and realized he did not have a password for the laptop, he returned to Li shortly afterward to request it.
"He told Darren if he had any problems with the computer to come on back and talk to him," Dorothy Beatty said. Later that day, Darren said he heard a Greyhound bus pulling away and the man on the bench was gone.
Dorothy Beatty said the family had a foreboding feeling when police called her son at work the next day, only hours after Li allegedly stabbed and beheaded 22-year-old Tim McLean in front of terrified passengers, then was taken into custody after a four-hour standoff with police.
Officers from the RCMP major crime unit contacted Beatty's son at the Erickson gas station where he works Thursday morning about taking the laptop for an unidentified reason, and he later turned to his mother and father for advice. Hearing the dramatic news about the killing on the bus, Darren said he suspected Li was actually the victim of the attack.
Dorothy Beatty said she and her husband initially thought the officers might be impostors after they called her son at his workplace, not at his home.
During another call to the RCMP by Dorothy Beatty later Thursday night to confirm the request to hand over the laptop was legitimate, police told her it had a link to crime. Only Friday, when an officer came to collect the laptop, did the family learn the laptop belonged to the accused killer.
The family recoiled from the computer - where they'd already started deleting files from to create space.
Dorothy Beatty said her son was taken aback at the police's news.
"(My son) was shocked and a little scared," she said.
It's not unusual to see bus passengers hanging around Erickson, said Dorothy Beatty, so Li's lurking didn't strike her or her son as odd.
"It is not uncommon to see people sitting on the benches," she said, referring to tourists who frequent the town due to nearby Riding Mountain National Park.
- with files from The Canadian Press
There were photos of a formal Chinese military parade, and others of Chinese models in clothes,
...oh the first article did mention that ._. yay for misleading titles!