4 min

Gay man called a fag, then sucker punched

Keep reporting, police say

Credit: Natasha Barsotti photo

Another West End gay man says he was called a fag and sucker punched as he walked hand in hand with his boyfriend near the corner of Davie and Burrard Streets Dec 4.

Chris Hiller, 25, says he and his boyfriend had left Numbers, a gay bar on Davie, and were walking south on Burrard St opposite the Esso gas station at around 8 pm when the alleged attack occurred.

Hiller says he became aware of someone walking behind them but “thought nothing of it."

All of a sudden, Hiller says, “my friend goes, ‘Come on, Chris, let’s keep walking, and next thing I know I’m on the ground with my face covered in blood and dazed, and my friend’s gone to get help."

Hiller says before he hit the ground, all he heard was a male voice allegedly saying, ‘You fag, I’m going to beat the shit out of you, I don’t like you, stay away from me. Don’t even come near me, you fag.’"

Hiller says he remembers being hit twice, once on the jaw, which knocked him to the ground where he hit his head, and a second blow that caught him in the teeth.

"[After] about four to five minutes, I got up and I’m woozy and staggering a bit,” Hiller recalls. “I couldn’t see for a few minutes, and then I sat down.” He says he cannot describe his attacker because he never saw the person. There was no one nearby when the attack took place, he adds, noting that the gas station across the street, where his boyfriend went for help, was the only place that was busy that night.

Hiller says the police came about 10 to 15 minutes after the incident but told him there was nothing they could do as they didn’t have a description of the attacker.

"They said, ‘We can take you to the hospital and they can deal with you,’” says Hiller who ended up at St Paul’s Hospital for treatment.

Const Tim Fanning of the Vancouver Police Department says he cannot find a record of the incident but takes the opportunity to remind the queer community to continue reporting any attacks right away.

"Phone 911. Most people have a cell phone. If not, run to the nearest open business,” Fanning advises. “There’s a lot of late-night businesses in the Davie Village certainly, so you can get some help.

"Try to remember whatever you can,” Fanning adds. “What they were wearing, what they look like. If you see them hop into a car, of course get a license number.

"It’s always a good reminder that people that do better think about those things,” he notes. “You don’t have to obsess on it, but you just think about it at least once — that you have a plan and you’re prepared so you’re not frozen with fear,” Fanning says.

"If these guys are out cruising around looking for more trouble, the way we’re going to catch them is somebody phoning in — 911 — right away with whatever sort of information they can give us,” says Fanning.

In another incident Dec 5, a gay man says he and his partner were walking west on Davie St near the Score sports lounge just before midnight when they heard homophobic slurs being yelled out of a party bus going by.

"The windows were open, we heard people yelling, and hooting and hollering as it was coming up Davie St going east,” West End resident Tom McKenna told Xtra West Dec 8.

"This one guy — he looked, say, early 20s — was hanging out the window, Caucasian, clearly intoxicated, repeatedly screaming ‘faggots, you’re all a bunch of fuckin’ faggots,” McKenna alleges.

"He had a good chunk of his body hanging out the window,” McKenna adds, noting that people on the street were startled at the how loud the yelling was.

He says he also heard other people inside the van making comments but he couldn’t see them.

"I whipped around,” recalls McKenna, hoping to get the van’s license plate number and its company name. But the light turned green and he didn’t have enough time to get the information.

He says the upper part of the van was bluish-green on the top, and slightly larger than the half-sized transit buses. 

McKenna says he didn’t have a cell phone on him, but called 911 from his home about 10 minutes later and recounted what had observed.

"Initially, it was like, ‘It’s too bad you didn’t get the license plate, I’m not sure how much we can do,’” says McKenna when asked how the police responded to his call.

"I said, look, you and I both know that verbal altercations lead to physical altercations a slight majority of the time. You need to send someone out because when these drunken yahoos finish at the end of the night, or they get off that bus, they’re going to be looking for action,” McKenna recalls telling the police.

"At the end they agreed that it was serious,” he says.

McKenna, 41, who’s lived in the West End for 18 years, says incidents like this happen on a regular basis.

"We’ve had everything from someone scratching ‘fag’ in the back of our car to, on Christmas Eve about four years ago, my 80-year-old uncle, my spouse and I were walking back on Denman St and we were literally followed by three guys in a car saying, ‘Hey, you homos, who’s that? Is that your date for tonight? Are you going for a threesome?’

"If you’re in the Village, and you’re walking down the street between say, 12 and four in the morning, you’re automatically assumed to be gay no matter what,” McKenna notes. “We have straight people who say, ‘I was verbally assaulted and I’m not even gay."

He says he doesn’t think homophobia is getting worse but that people are deciding to report incidents more.

"People are finally saying, ‘Enough is enough, we’re going to start reporting it,’” McKenna concludes.