Natalie Lockhart was just looking for a quiet break from work on a sunny Wednesday in White Rock.
What she found instead was a tall, young man – oozing blood – who asked her quietly not to summon help.
Suddenly Lockhart, assistant manager of the Shoppers Home Health Care store at Central Plaza, found herself at the centre of a non-fatal stabbing incident, which police say they believe is linked to “street-level” drug dealing in the area.
She said she was at the store’s recycling bin enclosure just off Johnston Road, shortly after 2 p.m. when the man approached her.
“He just walked into the garbage bins where I was standing, put his backpack on the ground and said ‘don’t call the police, don’t call an ambulance.'”
The man told her he had just been stabbed, Lockhart said.
“Blood was just dripping from his right side. He was talking lightly, but quickly.”
Although Lockhart offered help, the man refused it, she said.
“He just pulled on this black hoodie and picked up his backpack. I asked him where he was going and he said, ‘I’m going home.'”
Lockhart watched him shuffle to the intersection of North Bluff and 152 Street and cross over to the Surrey side.
“I felt bad. You couldn’t do anything for him. He didn’t want any help or anything. He was just covered in blood.”
Lockhart said a young woman approached after the man had crossed the street, wondering if anyone had seen him, and was pointed in the direction he was travelling.
After conferring with her manager, Lockhart called White Rock RCMP, and learned that hers was the third call on the incident, which had first been reported as an assault-in-progress.
When a fire truck and numerous police cars caught up with him, he was seated on the ground outside a jewelry store across 152 Street from Semiahmoo Shopping Centre.
Other witnesses observed the man, a 24-year-old Surrey resident, being tended to by a young woman who was applying improvised compresses to his chest in an attempt to stop the flow of blood.
An ambulance took him to the Earl Marriott Secondary grounds, where he was picked up by a helicopter and airlifted to Royal Columbian Hospital. He was later listed in stable condition.
Lockhart said she later saw police officers converging on a parking lot just south of Central Plaza on Johnston Road, and concluded they were investigating the area as a possible site of the stabbing attack.
Late Wednesday, police released a statement in which they said they believe the attack was targeted and is connected to street-level drug trade, and that “the general public is not at risk.”
But Lockhart admitted she was fearful for her own safety when she first saw the man.
“My first thought when he came walking in was, ‘oh my God, I’m dead.’ I didn’t know what to expect when I saw all that blood. And when he said don’t call the police or ambulance, I thought, ‘oh God.’
“I’m glad he’s doing alright. He’s very lucky.”
Lockhart said the incident shook her up enough that she went home from work early.
“It’s very scary. You don’t expect to see that in little old White Rock.”