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Vancouver homicide victim was once punched in the face by a Richmond Mountie

The victim of Wednesday night’s homicide in Vancouver was once brutally assaulted by a Richmond RCMP officer during an arrest.

Police have identified the victim of Wednesday night’s Vancouver homicide as a man who was once assaulted by a Richmond RCMP officer.

Matthew Alexander Navas-Rivas, 28, was shot and killed near Vancouver’s Tillicum Community Annex while walking with a friend and their dogs around 8 p.m. The shooting was believed to be targeted.

 Evidence markers at the scene of Wednesday’s night’s shooting. Photo Dan ToulgoetEvidence markers at the scene of Wednesday’s night’s shooting. Photo Dan Toulgoet

The victim was known to Richmond RCMP in 2012, when Navas-Rivas was punched and face-washed on the asphalt by a Richmond Mountie while being arrested following a string of cell phone robberies.

At the time, the RCMP were conducting undercover surveillance in regard to a series of thefts that occurred in downtown Richmond between Dec. 31, 2011 and Jan. 26, 2012.

On Jan. 26, 2012, Navas-Rivas was under surveillance in connection to the robberies when RCMP lost visual contact with him.

During that lost contact, the team received a police broadcast of a just-completed robbery involving a cell phone and a wallet by two suspects who were reported fleeing in a car at high speed.

The RCMP pulled over a car driven by Navas-Rivas and, while both men were ordered to stay inside the vehicle, they disobeyed and exited with their arms raised.

According to evidence heard in court during the officer’s assault trial, both complied when told to lie down on the ground, where Navas-Rivas remained motionless.

Video footage, taken from an RCMP cruiser equipped with a dashboard camera, then shows the RCMP officer with his service gun drawn but pointed downward, approaching the suspect quickly then aggressively putting a knee to the Navas-Riva's lower back.

Court documents say the video showed the officer placing his weapon on the ground near Navas-Rivas and looking “up and to his right for a brief moment and then with his right hand (striking) Navas-Rivas in the head/face."

A female police officer also observed the Mountie grabbing Navas-Rivas's hair and pushing “his head into the asphalt.”

According to the evidence heard in court, Navas-Rivas “had not struggled or shown any resistance throughout the arrest.”

The officer received a suspended sentence, six months probation and was ordered to work 25 hours of community service.

Navas-Rivas’ brother, Jinagh Navas-Rivas, was also known to Richmond RCMP and was sentenced to four years in prison in 2013 for drug trafficking in Richmond and Vancouver and for transferring firearms in New Westminster.

In terms of this week’s homicide, detectives are now appealing to anyone with dash-cam footage, who was driving in the area of Nanaimo and Cambridge streets on Wednesday between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., to come forward.

Anyone with any information about the incident and has not yet spoken with police is asked to contact homicide detectives at 604-717-2500 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

With files from the Vancouver Courier’s Jessica Kerr/Read more from the Richmond News