The manager of the Northern Hotel in Winnipeg says he tried twice to save Henry Kipling before he was killed early Saturday morning and keeps questioning whether he could've done more to save the 43-year-old man.
He describes Kipling as a quiet customer who visited the bar occasionally. Kipling had a disability and mobility issues and walked "stiffly," hotel manager Keith Horn said.
After last call Saturday, at around 2:15 a.m., Kipling was standing in line for the vendor in the 800 block of Main Street, which sells beer and coolers until 2:30 a.m. Horn said he was overseeing customers at the time.
"Some woman started yelling at him and then hit him in the face," Horn said. "She was removed from the hotel and told to go outside."
But the attack continued, Horn says, even after Kipling purchased beer and went outside with his friends.
"She walked up to him and clotheslined him, knocking him on his back and probably hitting his head then," said Horn, who watched things unfold from inside the building.
He said he made his way to the door and tried to get to Kipling inside, but a crowd had formed in the doorway.
"People got him up, but he was very unsteady on his feet. And then, as I got outside, she grabbed him from behind again and slammed him down to the ground, this time really hitting his head, because I could hear the bang as I was walking outside," he said.
When Horn finally reached Kipling, he sat him up and checked him over, expecting the back of his head to be bloody, but it wasn't. Kipling's friends took over, helped him to his feet and assured Horn they would get him home safely, Horn said.
Men attack Kipling
Kipling's friends walked him down the sidewalk to the side of the building, Horn said.
"They kept waiting for a taxi, but other people kept taking the taxis," said Horn, adding someone banged on the door of the hotel minutes later yelling for someone to call 911.
Horn said as he dialled, he reviewed security camera footage to see what had happened.
"A male kept approaching, and then another male approached, and you see that the male throws down Henry and his two friends, and runs off with his beer," he said.
"Again, Henry's thrown down onto his back, probably hitting his head again, and that's where he laid until the ambulance took him away."
Horn has been co-operating with police in the investigation. Late Saturday, he learned from homicide investigators that Kipling had died of a brain bleed after an unsuccessful surgery.
"He's a quiet guy. That's what makes it even more tragic, is that this was a guy that would never hurt anybody," said Horn.
"He was just out with his friends, just wanted to come listen to music, take some beer home and continue on his way."
Horn said he didn't recognize the woman involved, and the security camera footage was too dark and blurry to make out the men involved in the second attack.
"What we've been talking about for a while is that Main Street needs to be safer," he said.
Vernon Thomas, Kipling's uncle, reached in Peguis First Nation, said Kipling wouldn't hurt a fly.
"He's a very gentle person. He'd do anything for anyone. Always smiling. Always wanting to help people," Thomas said "I don't know why anyone would do this to him.'
Thomas and his wife say the community is hurting over his death, and have a lot of unanswered questions. They want police to release a better description of the suspects so witnesses can come forward with information. They're planning a burial for him in the community in the coming days.
Horn and Sel Burrows, the head of a local neighbourhood watch group, held a press conference in October, encouraging business owners along Main Street to work with police, keep their eyes open and take a more active role in preventing crime.
Now, Horn said he is haunted by "thousands" of questions over whether he should've done something different, like bring Kipling into the hotel after the third assault by the woman.
Protecting people with disabilities
Horn said he is also frustrated that he's no longer able to enforce a policy he's used in the past to protect people with disabilities.
When he knows customers with disabilities or mobility issues don't have a ride home, they're asked to leave an hour earlier than others, so that they don't have to fight to get a taxi.
But recently, a customer filed a human rights complaint, calling the policy discriminatory, he said.
"I still believe that safety should come above the rights of someone staying an extra hour in the beverage room, because the whole idea is if we can get people home safe, then they can come and join us again," said Horn.
Horn said he would've liked to offer that protection to Kipling Saturday.
He doesn't want Kipling's death to feed into rumours about safety in the North End and at his hotel.
"I'd say 95 per cent or more are great people. They might have issues, but you know, so does everyone," Horn said.
"For people to turn their nose up because it's Main Street, or [people of a] certain ethnic background, is crap. You shouldn't get [different] treatment just because you're not living in a better postal code."
On Monday night, Kipling's family, friends and members of the Bear Clan Patrol visited the Northern Hotel, asking to see the spot where Kipling is believed to have died.
"I took them over to where it happened, and they stood there, hugged and there was some drumming and singing at least, you know? Helps their healing."
The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information about the identity of the suspect(s) is asked to call investigators at 204-986-6508 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477).
A previous version of this story incorrectly identified a man in a photograph as Keith Horn, manager of the Northern Hotel in Winnipeg. The photo actually shows Henry Kipling, who was killed in the area early Saturday morning.Mar 01, 2016 8:03 AM CT