Mark Poodlat was a peacemaker.
If there was a dispute on the streets of Yellowknife, he would be there to mediate.
“If we had a problem, he’d come and find a solution to figure it out,” Poodlat’s friend of 10 years, who wished to remain anonymous, told Yellowknifer outside the city’s joint sobering centre and day shelter on Friday afternoon.
Just days earlier, on the same block, Poodlat, 36, was punched repeatedly in an attack caught on video.
He was medevaced to an Edmonton hospital, where he later died, RCMP confirmed Thursday.
Yellowknife RCMP have charged 32-year-old Victor Ugyuk with murder in relation to his death.
On a quiet Friday afternoon outside the downtown sobering centre and day shelter, many of Poodlat’s friends were asking: why?
“I don’t know why they had to do that to him. Out of nowhere, he’s just taken away from us,” said Timothy Base, a friend who met Poodlat five years ago.
Yellowknifer spoke to several individuals outside of the joint day shelter and sobering centre who said a dispute over a bike led to the fatal assault on Tuesday.
“Over a bike?” asked Base.
“They had to take my friend’s life? That was unnecessary and now he’s gone.”
Base said substance abuse issues in the downtown that fuel violence seem to be worsening.
“Alcohol and drugs, that’s it. Simple,” he said.
“Some of (the street population) need counselling but they don’t want to admit it. It gets worse and worse,” said Base.
Asked whether or not he thinks increased security patrols near the joint sobering centre and day shelter, along with more surveillance cameras, could help reduce violence and prevent something like this from happening again, Base said shelter staff are doing what they can.
“They are on a tight budget … but they try their best,” he said.
“They can’t be around all the time.”
In July, two “safety patrol officers” were hired to patrol the homeless shelter and the surrounding area from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In daily shifts that are broken down into two six-hour blocks, patrollers cover a route that includes the sobering centre and day shelter, the alleyway behind the facility, the corner of 50 Street and 51 Avenue, where Reddi Mart is located, along with the downtown pop-up park and the parking lot behind Northern News Services, according to Lisa Giovanetto, communications officer at the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority.
In security camera footage that captured the deadly assault, no patrol officers were visible at the scene.
In an email to Yellowknifer, Giovanetto stated regular patrols were happening on Tuesday, when the attack occurred, but added further details couldn’t be released as the homicide case is now before the courts.
On whether or not security changes could be coming to the facility, Giovanetto told Yellowknifer the incident is being reviewed and that it would be “premature to speculate on if changes will be made and what they would be, however we will ensure that appropriate steps are taken if changes are required.”
Another client of the sobering centre and day shelter, who asked to remain anonymous, said she couldn’t believe what happened to Poodlat, a friend of two-and-a-half years who “doesn’t make trouble.”
“He was hard working. He was kind-hearted,” the young woman told Yellowknifer.
“(Mark) always had good jokes and he always made us laugh,” she recalled.
The woman said she thinks “there’s enough cameras” already.
She said the security officers who began patrolling the neighbouring this summer “do what they can,” adding the program is a “really good thing.”
Base said everyone on the street looks out for each other.
“If someone gets hurt, we help,” he said.
Base said he understands RCMP are often tied up with other day-to-day duties, but that he wishes officers would patrol the 50 Street area more – not just after something serious happens, like a fight.
“They got to do their own job, but it would be nice,” said Base.
Making the sign of the cross, Base sent a final message to his friend.
“I miss you. I love you. Wherever you are, please pray for me, my friend. Mahsi Cho.”