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Burnaby teen remembered as a free spirit and beloved friend

RCMP investigating Oliver Zamarripa’s death as suspicious, appealing to public for more information

Oliver Zamarripa, seen here in this Facebook photo posted in May, disappeared on Oct 15, 2016. He was found dead two weeks later in Lytton, BC. Credit: Facebook/Oliver Zamarripa

Oliver Zamarripa’s friend still remembers his reaction to a passerby who yelled at him for wearing his signature eight-inch platform shoes. He yelled back and then trotted on, Amanda Bloomfield says.

Zamarripa never cared what others thought of him, she says; it’s part of why his friends loved him so much.

The Burnaby teen was found dead on Nov 1, 2016, in Lytton, BC, about 250 kilometres from where he was last seen by friends in Vancouver on Oct 15.

He was 19 years old.

The discovery of Zamarripa’s body has devastated his family and friends, many of whom spent the time since his disappearance desperately trying to find him. His death is being treated by police as suspicious and an investigation is ongoing.

“I don’t know how I’m dealing with this,” says Chase Porter tells Daily Xtra. The police discovery marks the end of a two-week-long missing person’s investigation.

“A lot of people have said this is the first time that a member of our community — of our generation — has gone missing and has turned up dead. It’s a new thing for a lot of people in our community and our age group,” Porter says.

Porter and others plastered city lampposts, bus stops and businesses across downtown Vancouver with posters of Zamarripa after he disappeared, trying to help locate him. Zamarripa’s father also posted on Facebook on Oct 19 in a public plea to help find his son.

“After that, there was nothing else we could have done,” Porter says quietly.

Porter says he felt “very protective” of Zamarripa, whom he describes as an up-and-coming member of Vancouver’s queer scene.

Oliver Zamarripa in his platform shoes, posted to Facebook on Sept 15.
Facebook/Oliver Zamarripa

RCMP Sergeant Annie Linteau says she can’t provide more information regarding Zamarripa’s cause of death, nor about the circumstances that led to his body being discovered in Lytton, about three hours northeast of Vancouver.

But close friends say Zamarripa had no reason to have been in Lytton.

“We can’t make assumptions, but I can’t see why he would go up there or why he would be there,” says Bloomfield, who says she and Zamarripa were “inseparable” prior to his death.

“There’s fucking nothing there and he didn’t have any money.”

Since the news of his death, Porter, Bloomfield and others are channelling their grief into organizing a celebration of life for Zamarripa on Saturday, Nov 12 at Jim Deva plaza, a place where Zamarripa often spent his days with friends.

Candles, pictures, speeches and performances will be held to remember Zamarripa as the “vibrant, vibrant person” that he was, Bloomfield says. The ceremony will take place in the evening, time to be determined.

Friends are also gathering on social media to express their grief.

“Oliver was so accepting of me and we just had that connection. Something powerful that I can’t really put into words,” friend Chelsea Koneko tells Daily Xtra, adding that he was a “crazy, free spirit who was set free.”

“He impacted a lot of people he knew, and brought a smile to everyone who was lucky enough to be his friend. He will be missed immensely by so many.”

Janet Ford describes him as a devoted friend to those who needed him.

“He just had to pass someone on the street to make friends with them. He was so infectious,” Ford says.

“He was the person’s champion, you know? Always sticking up for people and for what was right. A free bird.”