Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Popular musician dies after assault

'He was extremely loved,' says friend

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City police have released the name of the man killed on the Osborne Street Bridge on Friday night.

Joshua Jerome Bentley, Winnipeg's second homicide victim of 2014, died from injuries he sustained during an assault. Officers responded to the bridge about 11:30 p.m. and found two men who had been injured. Both were transported to hospital in critical condition.

Friends and family say Bentley was the lead singer in local hardcore band Empty Hands.

On Saturday night, Joe Goethals sat in a room in his Osborne Village apartment with a dozen of his friends to share a case of Coors Light beer and memories of Bentley.

"He was so confident, he always knew what he wanted to do and who he wanted to be," said Goethals, who spent time playing music and attending the same Bible study class as Bentley.

He said Bentley was leaving a party with one of his friends in an apartment in Evergreen Place, which faces the Osborne Street Bridge, to attend a social.

Specific details of Bentley's death were scarce Saturday, but even those who didn't know him were paying their respects at a makeshift memorial near a splatter of blood-soaked snow on the bridge.

Grace Eidse, whose apartment overlooks the bridge, was watching a movie Friday night when she heard men's shouts followed by police and ambulance sirens.

"But I didn't think anything of it," she said.

The next morning, when she saw that investigators had taped off the area, she checked news reports that pointed to suspected murder and slipped down to place a candle and a butterfly poster near the scene. A bouquet of flowers soon appeared beside Eidse's tokens of remembrance, allowing passersby to scatter blooms along the spot as they walked by, some stopping to snap cellphone photos.

"A flash memorial is happening here on Osborne Street. It's a busy place," said Eidse, adding that she's never before seen evidence of such a violent crime in her neighbourhood.

"We want to shed peace on the violence," she said.

Bentley graduated last year from St. Norbert Collegiate, where he was known for his green hair and tattoo collection.

One of his most prominent tattoos was of an owl draped across his neck.

Another group of 20 of Bentley's friends gathered in a St. James home to share memories.

"He was extremely loved, and cared for by everyone in this room," said Sabrina Schick, a friend of Bentley's. "People gravitated towards him, he touched a lot of lives."

But the 18-year-old had the most impact when he was on stage.

"He was always happy at the shows. He would stand up on stage and zone into what he was doing," she said. "He was so passionate."

Bentley had just released a demo recording a few months ago and spent most of his time performing at shows downtown.

"Seeing him do what he loved, that's where I'll remember him most," she said. "He flew by the seat of his pants and music took over his life."

On Saturday morning, Kestin Wood saw the news about Bentley on Facebook.

That evening she went to work at the Shell gas station beside the Osborne Street Bridge.

"I started crying," she said. "Now I have to look at that bridge all night."

The two friends met in kindergarten and lived down the street from one another in St. Norbert, where Bentley still lived.

"Once we were wrestling beside this duck pond. He was laughing because his hair blended in with it and he had a green shirt on," she said. "He was like 'you can't see me, you can't see me.' Then he rolled in some bird crap."

Some of her favourite childhood memories were with Bentley. The friends would skateboard, play basketball and drink Slurpees together after school.

"He's always been one of my best friends," she said. "He was good kid."

Police say the investigation is in its early stages and no further information is available at this time.

Members of the Winnipeg Police Service homicide unit continue to investigate. Anyone with information is asked to contact investigators at (204) 986-6508 or Crime Stoppers at (204) 786-TIPS (8477).

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 26, 2014 A5


Updated on Sunday, January 26, 2014 at 10:12 AM CST: adds police confirmation of victim

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