Friends of a man who died in a crash late last month in Red Deer describe him as a gentle person who would go to great lengths to help others.
On June 29, 27-year-old Brandon Keown died after fleeing police, striking another vehicle in an intersection and crashing into a tree.
Social media commenters expressed outrage at Keown – who was not named by police – for his role in the incidents which culminated near 60 Street and Taylor Drive.
"I by no means want to justify or excuse my son's behaviour and no one is more angry than me. However, that [incident] was just a snap shot of who he was," says Keown's mother, Tamara Sawatzky, adding she forgives those who lambasted her son on Facebook. "I’ve had over 50 people thank me for bringing him into this world because he had impacted them and taught them about kindness. He was a champion for the poor and he was kind. He lost his way, but he never lost his humanity and I hold my head up for the young man I raised in pride."
“I want people to know that I’ve never met someone more forgiving, and that I never actually heard Brandon say a bad thing about someone in my life,” says Amy Trepanier, a friend of Keown's who works with troubled youth in Red Deer’s downtown. “I want people to know that day that it was not a stolen vehicle; there was a good friend waiting for him to come back.”
Trepanier says Keown didn’t have a driver's licence, which she says may be part of the reason he was running from police.
“He should not have run. That was a bad choice, but he didn’t deserve to die that way. He wouldn’t want any of those people who said the things they said to lose their child or loved one like that. That’s the kind of person he was.”
Trepanier says she's not sure how'd she would have reacted had Keown survived the crash while killing someone else.
“He tried to do the right thing and follow the rules, but he would miss court dates because usually he was with someone that was in trouble, or having a hard time,” says Trepanier, who is clear that his actions are not excusable. “He’d go catch a ride to be with a friend in Innisfail and miss a court date, but nine times out of ten, when he was breaking the rules, it was to help somebody. The rest of the time he was trying to plod along and keep himself out of trouble.”
Ryan Brazeau, a long-time friend of Keown’s, says Brandon was always there when he needed to vent.
“I saw the good-hearted soul in him many times, and he'd deny it and hide it, but deep down he was the purest soul,” Brazeau says. “I'll miss my friend deeply, but he had his demons and he struggled very hard with them, so at least his struggles are over."
Trepanier says Keown used various substances from time to time, and occasionally attended AA classes. She also outlined Brandon’s childhood, noting the death of a sister and one parent leaving the family unit as potential sources of guilt.
Following the incident, a video appeared on social media for a short time showing an up-close view of the crash scene with Keown’s body visible. It was shared hundreds of times before being deleted. Trepanier says the person who posted it was contacted by Keown’s mother before taking it down and apologizing.
A celebration of life for Keown was held last weekend.
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