Recent Posts

Sunday, November 19, 2017

It has been years since I've posted, but I'm reviving this blog to share the following story.

Part 1: As an 18 year Patrick van Loosen arrived at another man’s home, attacked him, and left him for dead. Four months after the attack, while Patrick awaited trial, the other man died in the hospital. While Patrick awaited trial for aggravated assault in Oakalla prison in the cow barn, a segregation unit, his charges were raised to second degree murder. Patrick plead guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 4 years in prison.

A couple of months ago I met with this man over coffee for an interview and to snap some photos of him. I was moved throughout our conversation by his life and how he has been transformed. As I sat down, he explained that the night before our meeting he had driven from Chilliwack, BC, then spent the evening in downtown Seattle, talking to people late at night, hearing their stories and photographing them if they were willing. He also gave out sandwiches.

Patrick’s interest in photography began in childhood, where he kept a box under his bed of pictures he had shot. When he wanted to feel good about life he would pull the photos out and look through them. Life growing up in East Vancouver was very tumultuous, with a violent, alcoholic stepfather and a mother who drank heavily and abused prescription drugs, while running poker games in their basement. Patrick also experienced sexual abuse at a young age. He remembers that his first experience with alcohol came as a result of his mother teaching him to bartend at age 9 so she could spend more time playing poker. What he saw the adults doing intrigued him, so occasional sips eventually turned to hiding bottles in his bedroom. He blacked out for the first time during that same time frame.

As a teenager Patrick moved between hotels in Western Canada, or stayed in apartments where people could meet him to buy drugs. When he was 15 years old Patrick was involved in a large fight and suffered three broken ribs from the police officers who picked him up. Patrick escaped from the officers and was found by a friend. He went to his sister’s home because going to the hospital would alert the police. In terrible pain, Patrick’s brother in-law gave him the only thing he had to treat it and so started Patrick’s addiction to IV drug use that lasted 15 years.

At 18 years of age Patrick lived with roommates where they hosted a drunken Christmas party. One of his roommates’ girlfriends arrived with a torn shirt and bleeding lip. She admitted to him that her foster father had been raping her since she was a child.  This was the man whom Patrick attacked and whose death sent Patrick to prison, where he was held in a segregation unit 23 1/2 hours per day, slept on a steel slab, and had a 5 gallon bucket for a washroom. Oakalla was so disgusting that the landowner’s wife later shut it down after she toured the prison after her husband’s passing.

Eventually Patrick was transferred to what is referred to as BC’s “Club Fed,” a medium security prison island off the coast of Victoria. In order to protect himself from other prisoners and fearing that he’d be roughed up, shortly after getting there Patrick took the offensive and smashed a man with a ketchup bottle and received 3-4 more years added to his sentence. He also began to use drugs again. Fortunately, a biological uncle whom Patrick had never met, a fellow inmate, sought Patrick out when he heard he was in prison in order to provide Patrick with some protection. After meeting his Uncle Blair, he spent most of the time with the Lifers in prison, where he learned the ropes of how to do time in prison and how to protect himself. Patrick was a quick study in prison survival and to protect himself in the case of a stabbing, he put on what is known as “prison armor,” stuffing his clothes with magazines. His uncle once said to him, “There are two ways to do time in prison: Let the time do you or you can do the time. Essentially, you can feed off the hate and rage of other inmates and end up doing a life sentence or you can learn as much as you want. If you don’t like the system, go to school.” So Patrick began his educational studies within the prison.

Although Patrick requested a prison transfer, he was refused. As a result of beating up a man, Patrick was on the next plane to another prison, only 45 minutes away from his mom, who had previously been unable to visit. Patrick had received parole on two occasions but they did not last long due to his intolerance to being told what to do by parole officers. On one of his paroles Patrick was brought back to prison and charged for another murder. Patrick pled self-defense and beat the charge, as  the other person had stabbed Patrick first in the liver and bowels. After seven years in prison and as his sentence drew near to ending, he considered committing another crime in order to stay locked up. The idea of being in society and not knowing how he would handle it scared him in comparison to the relatively routine life in prison.

Upon release, Patrick quickly began using drugs and selling again because, coming from the streets, chaos was comfortable. Heroin was his drug of choice, but to stay awake he often used crack, or dabbled in cocaine, uppers, or downers. During a delirious state from drugs his associates had given him, he showed up at his mom’s home and she noticed his nine millimeter and bullet proof vest as he leaned over the sink. It was only then that she truly realised just how violent life had become for him.

On January 27, 1999 at 2pm, two armed men burst through the door of his apartment, and told him he was out of business "if he knew what was good for him." Patrick chased the men out of his apartment with a gun and followed them for 4 blocks in his boxer shorts in midday. Eventually he returned home, looked at all the drugs on his table, and wondered why, after being clinically dead 10 times from various acts of violence and drug overdoses, he was still alive. At the end of that day he realized that there had to be something more he was meant for and was ready to be done.  Previously when he quit using, he had moved away but kept all the things he had bought with drug money. Soon he would realize that whatever he wanted to buy was worth a weekend of drug sales, so he would go back to dealing which always ended up with him using again. Patrick admits to being too scared to kill himself although he had unsuccessfully tried a few times over the years to get the police to shoot him to death.  On the day he quit he showed up at his mother’s home and she asked, “How are you going to quit?” This resulted in him heading down to his mom’s unfinished basement, where he asked his mom to lock him in, and not unlock the door no matter how much he protested. She complied. Only when he was sleeping did she bring him food. He suffered through two weeks of excruciating back spasms, convulsions, night terrors, and other withdrawal symptoms.