4 min

Dykes fight bashers

But cops fail to chase car

Credit: Robin Perelle

Patty Hails’ voice falters for a moment as she begins her story. She pauses, then seems to tap into the same strength she found Jun 29-the night she threw herself between two big gay-bashers and their intended victim.

Hails and her friends had been returning from Club 23 at the time. At about 2:15 am, they climbed out of a taxi at the 7-Eleven on the corner of Davie and Hornby Sts. That’s when they saw the man in the middle of the intersection.

He was yelling something about the Olympics, Hails recalls. He seemed drunk.

Before she could do anything, a red car pulled up with two young men inside. “Fucking faggot!” they yelled at the man in the street. Then they sped off.

Hails, 23, and her friend Lori Neuen, 39, dashed into the intersection to try to coax the man back to the sidewalk.

But they didn’t get very far.

The red car roared back up and this time the men jumped out. They had obviously circled the block and were now coming back to “kick this guy’s ass,” Hails says.

Still yelling about “fucking faggots,” the men backed up, got a running start, then launched themselves at the man in the street and started punching him in the head and the face, Hails says.

The lesbians didn’t hesitate.

Hails, who is five-feet-tall and weighs about 100 pounds, grabbed one of the bashers by his heavy gold jewellery as he ran by. He spat in her face. Someone punched her in the head. But she refused to give up.

“It’s the most I have ever fought in my life,” Hails says, still visibly shaken. “I was just trying to defend this guy.

“I couldn’t not stay,” she continues. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I just walked away.”

The victim, whose name has not been made public, just seemed so defenceless, Neuen adds. “All I could think of was trying to get between them and [him].”

By the time the bashers fled, the victim’s mouth and chin were bleeding, his knees had buckled and he was just lying there in the middle of the street, Hails says.

Neuen’s hand was also bleeding and her fingers were beginning to swell. She still doesn’t know exactly how she got cut. One of the assailants might have been wearing a ring, she suspects. “It was a terrifying scene.”

And it only got worse.

Though two officers from the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) arrived promptly on the scene, their response left the lesbians shaking with rage.

The cops didn’t call for any back-up to chase the bashers-even though Hails gave them the car’s licence plate number. The bashers could have still been in the area plotting their next attack, Hails says, still furious.

The officers also refused to take the lesbians’ statements at the scene and seemed reluctant to characterize the incident as a gay-bashing.

They kept saying that fights like this happen every five minutes, Hails recalls. But this was a gay-bashing, she says she repeatedly told Const Steve Thacker.

“You can’t jump to that conclusion,” Hails says he replied.

The police completely mishandled the whole situation, Neuen concurs. “What I saw [that] night was profound. They didn’t want to hear from us.”

Insp Dave Jones, the VPD’s West End commander, defends his officers.

Const Thacker, and his partner Const Chris Lowe, are a “credit to the department,” Jones says. “I’m satisfied that they did this with the best efforts and intentions.”

Thacker’s decision, for example, to take another witness’ statement at the scene was reasonable, Jones says. The other witness was a street person without a fixed address. “If you let the street person go, you may never see that person again,” he explains.

When asked why the officers didn’t explain that to the lesbians at the time, Jones concedes that they “could have done a better job explaining.”

The cops did go to Neuen’s apartment about 14 hours after the incident to take her and Hails’ statements. They even apologized for not taking their statements at the scene. But their visit did little to restore Neuen’s confidence. “They were clearly doing some back-pedalling here,” she says, adding that they still wouldn’t call the incident a gay-bashing.

They kept comparing it to other fights they’ve attended, she explains. But this wasn’t a drunken brawl-it was a gay-bashing, she repeats angrily.

Jones also seems unsure about the nature of the crime. The attackers could have simply hurled homophobic slurs at the man as a generic form of aggression, he suggests.

But the officers do clearly refer to the incident as a hate crime in their report, he hastens to add. So if the suspects are caught, charged and convicted, the Crown will have the information it needs to push for stiffer hate crime sentencing.

But apprehending the attackers seems doubtful at this point, Jones admits.

That’s because the officers didn’t even try to chase the attackers the night of the bashing, the lesbians insist.

Hails thinks police could have caught the men if they had acted on the licence plate number she provided. The bashers had only fled the scene about five minutes before the officers arrived, she explains. They could have still been in the area-they could have been looking for their next target. But the cops didn’t even try to catch them, she says bitterly.

When asked why police didn’t give chase that night, Jones reveals department priorities: “They were trying to get clear of this call to get to another call,” he admits.

Thacker and Lowe were the only available unit in that area at that time, Jones explains, citing a shortage of resources at bar closing time. “No one was going to follow this one up on that particular evening at that time.”

But Jones doesn’t think his officers’ inability to follow-up on the bashing could have put other gays and lesbians in the Village at risk. This was an “acute circumstance” with a clear cause and effect, he explains, referring to the intoxicated man in the street as the cause. The attackers were unlikely to run into a similar circumstance that night, he maintains.

Hails is outraged. “You would think, as a police officer, getting the criminals would be one of your top priorities,” she retorts. “They didn’t make it a priority at all. I think they have their priorities all out of whack.”

The whole incident has left her feeling shaken, deeply saddened-and angry. “It just seems extremely unfair that on Davie St, of all places, we’re not safe,” she says. “And the police who are supposed to be protecting us are not protecting us.

“It’s hard to know who to trust,” she sighs.

As for the victim, Jones says he has decided not to press charges.

Hails says she might look into pressing charges herself. She’s also considering filing a complaint against Thacker and Lowe. Someone has to hold the police accountable, she says.

“I want to do what I can to make it stop,” she says. Before the next person gets murdered-again.