It was a typical Friday night at Centretown Pub in most ways. The bar had a steady stream of the friendly, mostly male clientele that Ottawa’s gay community is accustomed to. The beer was flowing. Men on the patio and in the bar were engaged in animated conversation.
Michael Marcil ducked between conversations. Marcil, well known at CP as a former bartender, is also known for his drag star alter-ego, Dixie Landers, and for his brassy personality.
At 10:40pm, the bar was typically busy. The day had been warm, but it was cooling down. That didn’t stop about 40 CP patrons from hanging out on the tiny front patio, according to patron Ryan McGill.
He stayed about three hours, watching the clientele gradually dwindle. He noticed a man and a woman “lipping off” at another table on the front patio, but didn’t think anything of it. They were eventually joined by a couple of other men.
McGill left at around 1:30am, when the crowds had already thinned out. He likely crossed paths with Don Theoret.
Theoret had gotten off work late, arriving at CP at about 12:45am. He hadn’t been drinking beforehand so he says that he’s got a clear memory of what happened.
The slight, handsome thirtysomething was sitting on the front patio of CP when he noticed Marcil engaged in a heated discussion with a small group of patrons.
“They are not people that I would consider to be CP regulars, because I hadn’t seen them before and I’m there a lot,” says Theoret.
“It was something that had obviously been carrying on from the evening,” he adds.
The conversation quickly escalated into a shouting match with Marcil, two gentlemen and a woman who appeared to be either a close friend or the girlfriend of one of the two. She took off down the street.
By this point, there were only a handful of people — maybe a half dozen, according to Theoret — on CP’s front patio and the bar was closing.
But the woman didn’t stay away long, returning minutes later, still angry.
“She got right up in [Marcil’s] face and flipped the glasses off his face,” Theoret recalls.
Next thing, Marcil, the girl, and her male friend were “on the ground, wrestling, basically fighting,” but the girl soon stood up. She was bleeding from her lip or mouth, according to Theoret.
“She was able to pull herself off at the same time that [her friend] hit Michael. She was screaming, she was crying and that’s when he got really upset,” he says.
Theoret got a good look at him. Although he was not a familiar face, he says the man was a short, stocky, muscular man with a baseball cap and facial hair.
He kept hitting Marcil. Even when Marcil managed to sit up on the steps of the pub, his assailant kept hitting him so he retreated into the bar, which was by then closed.
“It was very quick and it was a very nasty fight,” he says.
So when the paramedics and police arrived on scene, they would have seen a woman sitting on the curb a few metres from the bar, bleeding from her face, while a man consoled her, according to Theoret. Marcil was inside CP by then.
Paramedics on the street treated the injured woman and police began to canvass CP’s remaining patrons.
Marcil was taken to the hospital, where he stayed in a coma for five days. He was beaten so badly that he has multiple skull fractures, his brain is swollen and bleeding, and his pelvis is fractured. His ribs are broken and his left arm is broken.
Representatives for the family said May 30 that he had woken up and appeared able to understand the people around him. Also, spinal injury has been ruled out.
Theoret was initially reluctant to talk to the police, but he provided his story to them May 31. He agrees that gays and lesbians are understandably reluctant to talk to the police, but he hopes people will come forward if they feel comfortable.