Chaos reigned outside Celebrities nightclub on Dec 4 after a bear- or pepper-spray attack left several people with burning, watery eyes and blistered skin.
A crowd of people were milling outside the annual Diorama Party around 11:30pm when the attack took place.
West End resident Amanda Smith says she was standing outside the Fountainhead Pub facing Celebrities when she saw a man pull out a can and spray its contents in the face of another man he had been talking to.
“He sprayed it right in his face and I saw a really big mist,” Smith recalls.
The man with the spray can then crossed to Smith’s side of the street, walked behind her and into the community gardens, all the while looking over his shoulder.
Smith says the man who was sprayed also began walking away then fell to the ground.
“I don’t think the pain hit him immediately; I don’t think he realized what happened. He took a couple steps then hit the ground.”
“It happened that fast,” Smith continues. “I didn’t know if it was something random or they knew each other.”
She didn’t witness any yelling or “any kind of an altercation between them,” she says. “It was a couple quick sentences, out came the spray, and the guy walked away.
“I just told the people that were outside smoking that they might want to go inside because something had been sprayed; I could already feel it in my throat,” Smith adds.
Smith says saline solution was administered to the man who was attacked “for a good hour” after the incident.
She says the police told her it was probably bear spray.
The alleged attacker was about 6 feet tall, brown-skinned, clean cut with a shaved head, and slender.
Smith says the incident didn’t seem to be connected with Celebrities.
Fatima Jaffer, who attended the Diorama that night, says she was outside Celebrities milling about with 50 other people when she and some others began coughing, then “scrunched up” in pain. Jaffer says she later noticed that her right hand was blistered.
“It’s what you would imagine being on fire is like,” Jaffer says.
She says people panicked when they began to feel the effects of the spray.
She saw a man on his knees “freaking out and in tears” with lots of people around him.
Jaffer says she’s not aware of any homophobic remarks made at the time of the attack.
She says she left just as police arrived on the scene, about 10 to 15 minutes after the incident.
Little Sister’s manager and Diorama co-organizer Janine Fuller says she felt as if there had been a chemical spill when she exited the club.
“It was the same kind of feeling in your lungs, and my eyes were stinging,” she remembers.
“There was one man on the ground who was just convulsing from it,” Fuller adds. “He was obviously the person who got the bulk [of it].”
She doesn’t know if homophobia played any part in the attack either.
Just before the attack, Xtra cartoonist Ken Boesem saw two men arguing as he walked away from Celebrities. Boesem says one man pushed the other into traffic on Davie St.
“All of a sudden,” he says, “people started coughing; somebody said, ‘pepper spray,’ and everybody was rubbing their eyes.”
“I assumed [the fight and pepper spray] were connected,” he says.
Vancouver police are checking on the incident details.
Check xtra.ca for further updates.