Every so often, June Iida will see a group of teens walking down the street and, for a split second, expect to see her son among them.
It’s been four months since her only child, Dario Bartoli, was killed after an early-morning attack in South Surrey, and Iida said at times, it still doesn’t feel real.
“He was really funny, a very humorous boy,” Iida recalled of the popular 15-year-old with a “heart of gold.”
“He was very positive all the time. Everybody looked up to him… If you talk to any one of his friends, every single one will say ‘Dario was my best friend.’”
Details of the Dec. 13 attack – and the subsequent investigation – have been scarce. Police suggest an “alcohol-fuelled” altercation took place in or near Bakerview Park at 18 Avenue and 154 Street, leaving Dario with critical injuries. Dario, an Earl Marriott student, was transported to Peace Arch Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries later that morning.
A second teen, who was with Dario at the time, was not injured.
After repeated requests for an update on the investigation ever since, an IHIT spokesperson told Peace Arch News Wednesday the investigative team would be meeting this week to discuss what new information they can share.
Iida said she tries to not let the apparent lack of progress in the investigation frustrate her, instead focusing her energy on what she describes as “Dario’s work.”
While she’s hesitant to step into the spotlight herself, she wants the legacy that Dario left behind – as well as the circumstances surrounding his death – to ignite changes around the community where Dario lived since he was 10 months old.
Last month, Iida launched the Dario Bartoli Movement, an initiative aimed at ‘protecting local youth and securing the community.’
“What I’m proposing is cameras at points of entry into South Surrey, and parks, of course, like Bakerview Park being the first and most obvious one,” Iida said.
In addition to security cameras, Iida said she’d like to see parks lit up at night, for the safety of all residents.
“I know elderly people are sometimes up at 4 a.m., what if they want to walk their dog? They should be able to knowing that there’s lights, there’s cameras and they don’t have to worry.”
Iida has created a website – www.dariobartoli.com – which outlines the movement and includes a petition that has already garnered more than 1,300 signatures.
She has met with Surrey RCMP Supt. Bill Fordy, and, earlier this week, with Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner to discuss the movement, and said the mayor is supportive of taking steps to make the community safer.
Hepner did not respond to PAN’s request for comment by press time.
Iida, who works in Vancouver, plans to spend the next several weeks gathering support, distributing posters and business cards about the movement and looking at ways to raise funds to support it.
“My goal is to start the pilot program here, in South Surrey,” she explained. “This is where this happened to my son, this is where he grew up. This is his community.”
Iida said she’s aware that she may face resistance when it comes to security cameras, and is sensitive to people’s concerns about privacy and civil rights.
However, she maintains the benefit of using cameras to deter crime – and to assist police in catching those who have committed a crime – far outweigh the drawbacks.
“This isn’t new. I’m not reinventing the wheel – it’s happening all over the world,” she said. “In my mind, I’d rather have security over privacy, as a mother.
“This can’t happen here again.”
Looking back on the night that Dario was killed, the single mother said she constantly grapples with what she could have done differently.
On the website, she describes in detail the events of that December night. She had been at a Christmas party earlier that evening and left her car behind. She was in touch with Dario via text message throughout the night, especially after his midnight curfew came and went. The last text she received was at 2:04 a.m. saying he was on his way. At 4 a.m., she was contacted by police.
While she struggles with guilt, she knows it is common for teenagers to test their boundaries when it comes to things like curfews. This is why she believes the focus should be on ensuring the community is a safe place for all residents, any time of day.
“If I could chain him to his bed, I probably would have,” Iida said. “But it’s not like that.”
Though it’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that no arrests have been made in her son’s murder, Iida said she has full faith in the police.
“I can’t let things frustrate me,” she said. “I’m going to do what I’m doing, I’m going to let them do their job. I know that in the end, there will be justice. And that’s all I can hope for.”
In the meantime, focusing on ways to make the community safer is something Dario would have wanted, Iida said, noting the project helps her find the strength to make it through the day.
“Dario was always a priority in my life,” she said. “Doing this, he still is.”