A Yaletown gay man says he was called a faggot, then punched and kicked repeatedly in the head by four men in an alleged gaybashing on the corner of Davie and Richards Sts in the early morning hours of Nov 8.
Chad Wilkinson, 32, told Xtra West the alleged attack made his appearance look “freakish,” leaving him with a bloodied face, an injured jaw, huge bumps on the sides of his head and multiple abrasions on his face and head.
Wilkinson, a UBC graduate student, says he left 1181, a gay bar on Davie St, after 2 am and was near his Homer St residence when the alleged attack took place. As he reached the park at the corner of Davie and Richards Sts and began crossing to the other side of Richards, Wilkinson says he saw another man coming towards him.
“He started to cross at the same time I did,” Wilkinson recalls, “and he looked at me and he had a sort of a serious look. And then he said, ‘What are you staring at?'”
That’s when Wilkinson says the man “called me a faggot.”
“He just started to antagonize me,” Wilkinson says, “and I was like, ‘Look, I’m not staring at you. I’ve nothing to stare at you [about].'”
At that point, Wilkinson says, he noticed two other men on the opposite side of the street near an apartment building, an area to which he was steered by the first man, he alleges.
“He was cutting me off as I was crossing, to the point where it veered my path into the area where the two guys were also standing,” Wilkinson alleges.
It was then that the three men began to push him, he further alleges.
“They called me a faggot a couple of times in the group,” he alleges, “and I think I said, ‘Do you have a problem with gay people?’ and that was what kind of set them off.”
Almost simultaneously, Wilkinson adds, a fourth man came up behind him and chest-bumped him in the back.
“I turned around, and soon as I turned around to see him, the three other guys started hitting me in the back of the head —just punching,” Wilkinson alleges.
“I fell on the ground and I sort of covered my head, because they were kicking me in the head. The only place they were kicking me was just in the head.
“I started to panic,” he remembers. “I was getting pretty beat, and I was like freaking out and I was like, ‘if I stay here, I’m gonna be in serious trouble.'”
Wilkinson says he was reluctant to take his hands off his head but says he did, because “I had to get up.”
The UBC student says he then grabbed onto the legs of one of the men and pulled them towards him, causing the man to fall.
“Once he was on the ground, I used him as leverage to get myself on my feet again,” Wilkinson explains. “I got on my feet and I kicked him in the stomach, and then I turned around.
“The three of them were still trying to hit me in the head,” he alleges, “and I just started to lose it. I just started to flail and just got really angry, and then they all sort of backed off.”
Wilkinson says he then confronted the man whom he alleges initially “antagonized me.”
“I just said, ‘do you want to go one on one? We can do this one on one.’ And I looked at him, and he made a comment about my face. I think he said, ‘Look at your face,’ because my face was really badly beat up,” Wilkinson says.
“I must have looked scary, and he just backed off and I knew at that point that nothing was going to happen anymore, so I just stood there.
“One of my shoes was off and I just said, ‘This is fucked.’ And I grabbed my shoe and I just went home.”
Wilkinson says as far as he can tell there were no witnesses to the incident. He says all four men were about 5′ 10″ or shorter, had short, dark hair, dark skin, and were dressed the same in light-coloured shirts, dark jeans and hoodies.
Wilkinson says when he got home, he took photos of his injuries and then went to bed. It was only on the following morning when he tried to eat that he realized that his jaw was injured.
Wilkinson eventually went to Vancouver General Hospital at the urging of a friend and did a CT scan, which showed that his jaw was not broken. He was discharged from hospital.
At his friends’ urging, he then called the police.
But Wilkinson says when he spoke to Const Corey Bech, the Vancouver police officer was “reluctant to identify this as a hate crime.”
“He feels that because I was by myself, and I don’t really give off the air of a homosexual that much, that he just thought that those comments were general comments,” Wilkinson recalls.
But the head of the Vancouver Police Department’s (VPD) diversity section, John deHaas, says Wilkinson’s account of the incident would indicate that there was “a bias, prejudice or hatred” towards queers as a group.
“The impact isn’t just Chad. The impact is to a group and we get that, and the law gets that,” deHaas says. “So from what you’ve told me, it definitely falls within that section of the [Criminal] Code and needs to be investigated that way. And if we can identify the people, bring them in the justice system, that should be put towards the judge.”
DeHaas says he doesn’t know if Bech is a new officer, and would “have to enquire if this is a training deficiency” or “a misunderstanding.”
The VPD’s District One second-in-command Staff Sgt Don Cayer, told Xtra West Nov 27 that Const Bech was out of the country, while trying for several minutes to track down the file on the incident without success.
Cayer says, however, that from the account of the incident “something seems wrong there,” and “would really like this to be followed up on.”
But VPD hate crimes investigator Tim Houchen says Bech’s report is fine. “He’s done a great report and a great investigation,” he says.
Though Houchen can’t find the page with the hate crimes box to see if Bech checked it, he says a hate crimes classification has now been added to the incident.
“I classified it as a hate-motivated offence Nov 14,” Houchen reveals.
“I’m not looking at trying to find out who’s making mistakes,” he adds. “We’re trying to ensure that those mistakes get caught and get corrected.”
Bech did not include his opinion of the incident in his report, Houchen notes, adding that Wilkinson may have misunderstood the officer.
Bech has been an officer with the VPD for at least five years, Houchen says.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence leading to a suspect in this incident, Houchen adds, noting that Bech checked the area for video footage but no suspects were seen on the tapes of the businesses in the area.
The report, however, corroborates Wilkinson’s account of the incident.
Wilkinson says his gaybashing is not an isolated incident.
“When I think of all the gay friends I have, there’s a lot of us that have had this happen to us,” he says. “It’s surprising how many people have had it happen and not reported it.”
In another incident Nov 30, police say a 21-year-old Prince George man is now charged with assault in connection with an alleged gaybashing that occurred near Smithe and Burrard Sts.
Police say a 24-year-old Vancouver man and his 28-year-old friend were singing Christmas carols when a group of men yelled at them to shut up.
The group made “derogatory comments” and then punched one of the men repeatedly in the face before running away, according to police who arrived on the scene after the men called 911.
Christopher Clifford Mercier, who is charged with the assault, has been ordered to have no contact with the victim and to stay out of the area where the assault occurred.
Houchen declined to say what comments were made prior to the attack, but says the incident has been classified as “a hate-motivated assault.”
“This is exactly why we want people to report. This is why we want people informed,” Houchen adds. “If somebody just takes this as, ‘Ennh, it’s just an assault’ then the issues aren’t addressed.
“At least with this, we were able to step in and intercede,” Houchen says.