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'Immediately smelled blood': Chilling testimony heard in Vancouver courthouse stabbing case

A judge presiding over the case of a 2021 attack at a Vancouver courthouse heard first-hand testimony from a sheriff first on the scene.
The Vancouver Law Courts were the scene of an in-courtroom stabbing May 25, 2021.

Sheriffs called to a Vancouver Law Courts hearing room found two women on the ground, one of them with multiple injuries, the other in handcuffs.

Nearby, a hammer and a knife lay on the ground, according to Deputy sheriff Chris Zanotto, who testified Wednesday at the trial of Qin Qin Shen, also known as Catherine Shen.

“Massive blood loss and blood on the ground,” Zanotto told Judge Kathryn Denhoff of the May 25, 2021 incident.

Shen is charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

Court documents say the victim in the assault is Jing Lu.

Sheriffs arrived at the courtroom when someone pressed a court panic button.

Deputy sheriff Kulvinder Bagri was patrolling the downtown courthouse when the call came.

Entering the room, he told Denhoff he saw one woman on the ground in the aisle.

“She was handcuffed behind her back,” he said.

Further along, he saw another body on the floor.

“I could see a lot of blood on her,” he said. “Both on her face and on her body.”

Bagri, a first aid attendant, checked to see if the injured woman was conscious and breathing.

“Her eyes opened and then closed,” he said. “There was a lot of blood coming from lacerations on her left wrist.”

Checking further, Bagri found the woman had bleeding puncture wounds on her chest and a small cut to her forehead.

He said she did not regain consciousness in the 15 to 20 minutes he attended her before emergency health services arrived.

“She never said anything,” he said.

Zanotto arrived shortly after.

“I immediately smelled blood,” he said noting the victim was in a fetal position. “I immediately saw a long knife on the ground away from the prosecutor’s table... a hammer on the opposite side.”

Zanotto told Denhoff he took custody of the handcuffed woman and, with another sheriff, took her to a cell on the first floor of the courthouse complex.

“I noticed large amounts of blood on and around her arms and body,” Zanotto said.

The woman didn’t say much. Zanotto said, “she was screaming.”

Once in a cell, Zanotto learned her identity from documents in her purse, read her Charter rights and then bagged her hands to preserve the bodily fluids on them as evidence.

He testified documents identified her as Catherine Shen.

As part of the Chartering process, Zanotto asked Shen if she wanted a lawyer.

“She said, ‘a lawyer can’t help me,’” the sheriff added.

He then asked if Shen knew why she was under arrest.

Zanotto said she responded, “’Yes, she was going to hurt me. It’s her fault. It’s her fault.’”

Crown prosecutor Jacinta Lawton told the judge the Crown is seeking assessments to be done on Shen and the case may proceed on the premise that Shen could be considered not criminally responsible for her actions.

If the inquiry were to proceed, it would assess Shen's mental capacity to form criminal intent, and therefore, whether she can be held accountable for the attack.