Posted by: Miss PEPSI | December 5, 2005

Young Vancouver artist gunned down outside a Richards Street nightclub

Skateboarder Lee Matasi, 23, ‘despised guns’


Glenda Luymes, The Province

Published: Monday, December 05, 2005

Lee Matasi loved art and hated guns.

The 23-year-old Vancouver skateboarder — the driving force behind Leeside skateboard park near the PNE — was shot dead early Saturday outside a nightclub in the 300-block Richards Street.

"Lee despised guns," his grieving mother, Susan Jessop, said through her tears yesterday.

"We heard that he might have taken offence that someone else had a gun, and then that person shot him.

"I don’t get it. This isn’t supposed to happen in Vancouver."

A few hours earlier, Matasi had gone out for sushi with his mom and sister, Alison, also a renowned skateboarder.

He left his family to attend the opening of a friend’s art exhibit. Afterward, the friends went out to celebrate.

"They met someone who took exception to the fact that they were happy," said Matasi’s uncle, Bruce Jessop. "The next thing you know, Lee was dead.

"It’s an injustice.

"Lee died the opposite way of how he lived. He was soft-spoken and easy-going. He never had a bad word for anybody."

Police said the 28-year-old gunman fired a handgun into the air before striking Matasi and then shooting him.

The alleged shooter was found in an alley about two blocks away and was in custody last night. The gun was found in a nearby dumpster.

Matasi’s mother said her son "would never hurt a fly."

"He wanted to be an artist since he was six years old," she said, breaking into tears.

"He wasn’t a scholar, but he had just graduated from art school. He saw that art made life beautiful and he did what he could."

Matasi’s work can be seen in murals around the city, including one at the corner of Broadway and Yukon. He was hoping to continue his art training in France, and planned to travel there with his long-time girlfriend.

While he was still a student at Templeton Secondary, Matasi began a project to convert a garbage-filled drainage pipe beneath Hastings Street into a skateboard park.

The popular boarding spot is now called Leeside.

"It was nothing and he made it into a place you wanted to be," said friend Carlos Adams. "He was that way. He inspired people. He was never into violence. He stayed away from that kind of stuff."

Another pal, Jay Lamarche, said Matasi had many friends.

"He was a proactive skateboarder," he said. "This was his community and he was friends with everybody. He was really doing good things."

Yesterday, candles and flowers lined the graffiti-adorned walls at Leeside. Wet spray paint tributes to "Avers" — Matasi’s tag name — coated the walls.

"This is our dedication to him," said ‘boarder Ivan Pelen. "This is how we’re remembering him and what he was to us."

Matasi’s family will never forget his final words to his sister Alison.

"He told her to be safe," said his mother. "He hugged her and then he left.

"That was the last time we saw him."


© The Vancouver Province 2005

P.S. Friends of weekend murder victim Lee Matasi honour his memory with spray-painted murals and candles in a tunnel used by skateboarders under Hastings Street near Cassiar in Vancouver.




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