Plans for a quiet vigil to honour murder victim Tim McLean erupted into anger and chaos Thursday night.
Humble celebrations by friends and family, who had gathered in front of the Manitoba Legislative Building, were interrupted when a man brought up the last person participants wanted to hear about — Vince Li.
Li repeatedly stabbed and then beheaded McLean in front of nearly three dozen people on a Greyhound bus outside Portage la Prairie in July 2008. McLean, a carnival worker, was on his way home to Winnipeg from Edmonton.
Li was found not criminally responsible for his actions after a brief trial in March.
"Li is a victim," a bespectacled man said at Thursday night's vigil. "He should not be caged up and treated like an animal."
Those comments drew the ire of those gathered, who quickly circled the man and demanded he leave.
"Go away, you're not welcome," shouted one.
Said another sarcastically, "Go visit Li in the hospital and bring him flowers."
It was the most tense moment of the night for the more than 70 people who gathered at the building's steps.
Most of the evening was spent quietly, with laughter and smiles, as they remembered a man whose life was cut short last summer.
One of McLean's best friends, Jessica Kehler, said she remembers Tim most for his wild antics.
"Tim would paint his face and hang out the window shouting at people," she laughed.
"I always said, 'Tim, you're going to scare the kids.'"
Underneath her black hoodie, Kehler keeps a permanent reminder of her friend — a black-and-white tattoo of a cross on the underside of her forearm.
She met McLean when she was 14, dated him off and on and even lived with him.
"Tim never judged anybody," Kehler continued. "He always said first appearances aren't always right."
Some strangers came out to honour McLean.
"No parent should ever get a phone call of that kind," said Sharon, who didn't want her last name published. "Tim died way before his time and his memory can't get lost in the shuffle."
Even a couple who were on the same Greyhound bus on which Tim was killed attended the vigil.
Laurie Scott and her mother, Helen, were sitting seats away from McLean when he was murdered.
"We came here to support and pay our respects to Tim," Laurie said.
"It gives us a little bit of closure too," said her mother.
Psychiatrist Dr. Stanley Yaren testified in court Li was suffering from untreated schizophrenia and psychotic episodes at the time of the killing.
Those delusions included hearing repeated commands from God to kill McLean, whom Li viewed as a demon.
Li is receiving treatment under 24-hour supervision at the secure PX3 ward of the Health Sciences Centre, where he has been since last August.
He is awaiting a bed in the high-risk ward at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre.
He will remain there until doctors determine he is no longer a threat to society.