Crime in Burnaby: Man convicted in random transit attacks

Rainier Jesse Azucena, 35, was sentenced to parole and three years probation after pleading guilty to a series of attacks on strangers in transit.

A 35-year-old New Westminster man has been sentenced to parole with three years probation after pleading guilty to a series of random and unprovoked attacks on South Asian men in Burnaby, Vancouver and New Westminster.

Rainier Jesse Azucena has been charged with seven assaults that took place on buses and trains and near transit stations between October 29, 2021 and February 7, 2022.

“Under a delusion that apparently targeted Indo-Canadian men, Mr. Azucena was attacking without warning, kicking or punching these unsuspecting complainants who were sitting on the bus and tending to their own business,” Crown Attorney Jonas Dow said at a news conference. Sentencing hearing in Vancouver Provincial Court on Friday.

But Dow added there was “two-column tragedy” in the case.

“Big gap”

Azucena suffers from schizophrenia and had fallen into a “big void in all mental health services”, according to Dow.

He had grown beyond his family’s ability to care for him and his mental health issues had gone untreated for some time, Dow said.

“He was out of medication. It’s as simple as that,” defense attorney Terence La Liberté said.

After Azucena’s arrest, La Liberté said the transit police took him to Royal Columbian Hospital, but he later ended up at the North Fraser Pretrial Center for a month.

“I think our system is going to have to look at that because if it was getting the proper care, we probably wouldn’t have these difficulties,” he said.

La Liberté said Azucena has “deep concerns about certain racial groups because of his experiences” and is unable to “rationalize” them when off his medication.

But for nearly five months now, Azucena has been in a mental health facility and has stabilized, according to La Liberté.

“He’s on the right track,” La Liberté said. “He is properly medicated; he has the support system he needs.

In a joint sentencing submission, Dow and La Liberté requested parole and three years probation.

That means Azucena, who has no criminal record, won’t have one if he meets the terms of his probation.

British Columbia Provincial Court Judge Jodie Werier agreed to the plan.

“I am convinced that parole is the appropriate outcome,” she said.

While on probation, Azucena will need to seek treatment and take her medication.

He is also prohibited from contacting any of his victims and from possessing weapons.

Azucena pleaded guilty to four of the seven assault charges. The others stayed.

Random attacks

Metro Vancouver Transit police described five of the attacks Azucena was accused of in a Feb. 14 news release.

On October 29, 2021, a man was getting off a number 9 bus near the Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain station around 10:30 p.m. when another man approached from behind and kicked him several times in the legs and attempted to punch him in the face, the statement said.

On January 6, a passenger was sitting on a train near Royal Oak station at around 5.30pm when another man rose from his seat and, without provocation, kicked the victim in the face, according to the transport police.

On January 26, a SkyTrain passenger near the Metrotown station around 8 p.m. was punched three or four times in the back of the head. Shortly after, another victim was hit in the face with an empty beer can on another train, according to the Transit Police statement.

On February 3, a SkyTrain passenger near Patterson station around 5 p.m. was punched in the face up to six times, police said.

Transit police said investigators linked the assaults to a single person “known to police.”

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor

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