Vandalism sparks conversation about invisible illness

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
October 27, 2017 - 9:30am

A Red Deer man is speaking out after having his vehicle unceremoniously vandalized while out shopping.

Dustin Mountain says he was at the Parkland Mall WalMart with a friend on Monday night seeking out Halloween costumes.

Around 8 p.m. when Mountain returned to his vehicle, which was parked in a handicap stall, he discovered it had been tagged in permanent marker with more than one unsavoury phrase.

Perhaps worst of all was the message written on the passenger side window: “I’m not handicapped.”

What's more is not only does he in fact have Parkinson’s, but Mountain’s handicap sign was visible through the windshield of his car.

“I'm not entirely sure what their frame of mind was. They definitely thought I wasn't handicapped,” he surmises. "I'm a little upset that somebody would do that to anybody's property, but I just can't get behind the idea of vandalizing something because you're angry with a situation."

Mountain, 35, says his disease is what some might describe as invisible. He can walk a fair distance, but going too far can keep him from even being able to stand, he says.

“Some people out there have it far worse than I do, they're visibly disabled,” Mountain says. “It plays to their favour when they're trying to park, but otherwise it's just horrible. People should never be so ignorant of these facts. Some handicaps out there like MS and Parkinson's, there’s quite a few that just don't show symptoms."

In addition to the marker on his windows, both sides of Mountain's car were keyed.

After discovering the vandalism, Mountain was told by store and mall security there was nothing they could do for him until he contacted RCMP. Upon doing so, Mountain says the RCMP officer he dealt with was very receptive, even attending Mountain’s home to get the details on what happened.

Due to a miscommunication by mall security, RCMP were turned away when they sought out the surveillance footage.

After being contacted about the matter by rdnewsNOW, Parkland Mall General Manager Dan Hachey says re-training will take place for dealing with RCMP requests, and that Mounties are now welcome to come and view the footage and go through the process of obtaining it for their records.

RCMP confirm that although the case has been closed, they will contact the mall with the possibility of reopening the investigation.

In the meantime, Mountain says his focus is less on the culprits and more on letting people know not to make assumptions about people who park in handicap spots.

"At the time I wanted to say so many things to the people that did it, but now, you know, there's no helping those people,” he says. “I just want to help everybody else by saying that if even if somebody else does park there and gets out and walks around just fine, they probably could have a handicap. You don't know, and hating them for it, it's just not right."

Mountain adds this isn’t the first time this has happened to him.

"It happens about once every six months or so -- somebody just walks up and asks me, 'Whose car are you driving,' and they seem visibly upset. I've never had it happen in any other city."

Red Deer's immigrant population up significantly in last five years: census

Join the Discussion

We are happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules: Keep it clean, keep it civil, keep it truthful, stay on topic, be responsible, share your knowledge, and please suggest removal of comments that violate these standards. See full commenting rules.