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How Canuck the crow stole my story

A crow known by locals and on social media as Canuck tried to steal a knife from a crime scene last week. Now he’s an online sensation. Here, he sits on a burned-out car while a Vancouver police officer guards the knife he almost successfully flew off with. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Last week, I watched a crow try to steal a knife from a crime scene at the McDonald’s restaurant parking lot at Hastings and Cassiar.

He almost got away with it, too.

But with a cop giving chase and the knife likely too heavy for the little fella to soar any higher, he dropped the blade back in the parking lot. Cops boxed it up and that was the end of that caper.

That, however, didn’t deter the crow from seeing what else he could boost.

In no particular order, he went after a pair of eyeglasses, gear from a television camera operator and police tape. A cop eventually rewarded him with a shiny pen.

His name is Canuck.

He’s famous. Facebook famous. YouTube famous.

That fame was earned before I made him considerably more famous when I briefly mentioned his antics in an otherwise serious story about police shooting a man (armed with said knife) in the McDonald’s parking lot.

That mention was enough for my media brethren and sistren to seemingly drop all other pursuits for more details on what exactly I saw, where exactly I saw this happen and how exactly I knew his name was Canuck.

The story, as they say, went viral.

Canadian Press, CBC, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, The Guardian, The Daily Mail and ABC News all had some version of that 10 seconds of drama. Even a German website posted a story.

I’m still puzzled by the attention.

Such semi-understandable interest has me second-guessing my decision not to put the crow in the lead. I thought the fact the cops shot a guy in the same parking lot they shot and killed a guy in 2012 was the lead. The crow could wait.

I’m also puzzled that I was the only reporter who saw the crow fly off with the knife. Courier photographer Dan Toulgoet witnessed it from a different vantage point (no, he didn’t get a shot of the crow with the knife) and VPD media liaison officer Const. Brian Montague caught the “tail end” of the crime.

Our lucky day, I guess.

Anyway, as I write this, my Twitter notifications about Canuck continue to multiply; I took some photos with my phone last Tuesday, wrote the story that day and now we’re almost a week later and still there is this fascination.

That’s not supposed to happen in our collective short-attention-span world.

But here’s the thing: People are obsessed with stories about animals.

So much so that sometimes we lose sight of the real story. Witnesses of last week’s shooting said the man torched his own car, then proceeded to stab himself before charging police. Last I heard, he's still alive. I shouldn’t speculate on the man’s state but drugs, a mental health issue or a combination of both were likely tied to this tragic event. These are sad realities of our city and, it appears, always will be.

But back to the crow…

I sort of get the obsession with the crow, especially when you package up videos of him riding the SkyTrain, link to his Facebook page and post and re-post that photo of him holding another knife from another time in his beak.

It's a social media editor’s jackpot.

All this bizarreness reminded me of a story I wrote back in my Richmond days. I’ll give you the short version.

Slateon Morry, a young businessman from Winnipeg, had come to Richmond to investigate whether an employee was embezzling money from the family’s bedding business.

Morry went missing a few days later.

Police found him dead in the trunk of a rental car submerged in the Fraser River. Police also found Morry’s Dalmatian puppy with him. The prime suspect died soon after in what was likely a suicidal car crash up country; he crossed the centre line and drove into a semi.

Police eventually produced a Crimestoppers episode on the crime and broadcast it. A picture of Morry cuddling his dog was part of the piece.

After the re-enactment aired, I contacted police to see whether it generated any tips. No, said the cop, but we did get a lot of phone calls from people pissed off that someone would do that to a puppy.


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