A tree has been planted at Douglas Park in memory of Wells Gallagher — “an innocent and gentle person who came to a terrible end.”
The tree was planted on the west side of the popular Langley City park, accompanied by a plaque that reads: Wells Tony Gallagher ‘In The Arms of Angels’.
Gallagher’s sister, Danielle Hagen, wanted the community to know the tree and plaque are there and invites those who remember Gallagher to visit the tree.
Known to many in downtown Langley as ‘Miles’, the 37-year-old homeless man was stabbed to death in what police called a ‘random attack’ outside Baselines Pub on June 1, 2015. Gallagher had been a fixture in downtown Langley for years. He mostly dressed all in black, with a long trench coat and tattered black pants. Although his appearance could be intimidating at times, he was a quiet man who suffered with severe schizophrenia most of his life.
“I thought it would be nice to let people know the tree has been planted, as many Langley residents helped pay for it,” said Hagen.
Following Gallagher’s death, a Gofundme account was set up to help pay for his celebration of life and to have some sort of memorial plaque made for him.
The man accused of killing Gallagher is David Christopher Van Den Brink, 22, of no fixed address. Van Den Brink was arrested a short distance away with blood all over his clothing. Numerous people witnessed the brutal attack on Gallagher, said police at the time.
Van Den Brink was charged with second degree murder and has been in jail since his arrest. His pretrial begins in July. No date has been set for his actual trial which will be in Supreme Court in New Westminster.
The trial is expected to take place in spring of 2017, said Hagen.
Hagen plans to attend all of his court dates. She gives much credit to Crown, IHIT and Victim Services who have helped the family through this process.
Many people who live and/or work in the downtown had seen or got to know Gallagher through the years. Many commented he was a kind, quiet man who has never hurt anyone. Others said they have offered a coffee, sandwich, pocket change or just a hello to him over the years.
He had no criminal background.
He spent most of his adult life in and out of care homes, hospital, mental health centers and on the streets.
Hagen said her mom tried desperately to keep him in a facility but he would begin feeling good while taking his medication regularly and then check himself out. Then he would stop taking the medication and spiral back into the depths of his illness.
At the time of Gallagher’s death, his family said the system, as it functions now, can’t help the severely mentally ill and needs to reviewed.
Since her brother’s death, nothing has much changed, said Hagen.
“As for what could have helped him?
“There really are no good answers there. The system is broken, from childhood up, unfortunately.
“Earlier diagnosis and supports in place that continue into adulthood; early intervention with serious mental health issues and forced treatment for illnesses such as schizophrenia where the end results can be catastrophic for everyone else involved are some of the ways.”