A 31-year-old man, who allegedly attacked several people with a hammer in the Davie Village at the height of this weekend’s Pride celebrations, is in custody charged with 17 offenses including assault causing bodily harm.
But Vancouver police say there is thus far no indication that Sunday night’s attacks were motivated by homophobia.
According to Vancouver Police Department (VPD) media spokesperson Const Jana McGuinness, Khalid Alzghoul allegedly began attacking staff and patrons at the Majestic after allegedly trying to leave the adjacent Tutti Convenience Store without paying for some items.
In a statement, McGuinness says Alzghoul, who has “some history of mental illness,” entered the Majestic around 10:20 pm Aug 3 and allegedly struck a man in the head with a hammer “without warning,” knocking him to the ground unconscious.
“He continued on what would become a spree of violent random assaults by next striking a doorman from Majestic in the head as well as three patrons on the patio,” McGuinness alleges in the police statement.
“The man then fled the restaurant but not before he struck one more person in the head on the way out,” she further alleges.
McGuinness says the man then headed to Characters Restaurant at the corner of Thurlow and Davie Sts and allegedly attacked two women sitting on the patio with their backs to the street, hitting them both in the head.
McGuinness says a friend of the two women then jumped the restaurant’s railing and chased after the man.
At one point, McGuinness alleges the “crazed” man turned and pointed what later turned out to be an imitation handgun at the man chasing him.
“The suspect attempted to flee but was tackled by the man who was also struck in the head with the hammer,” McGuinness alleges. She says police found the two men struggling near Thurlow and Davie Sts. Alzghoul was taken into custody and “an imitation firearm, two knives and a hammer were seized by police,” McGuinness says.
“We’re not saying that we know exactly what his motivation was,” McGuinness acknowledges when asked if there’s any indication that the incident was motivated by homophobia.
“I did hear that someone heard him ranting, saying a lot of things, so it’s possible he could have said something,” she says, adding that the police will “look into it further.”
“That may just take a little time to sift through a lot of what he was saying,” McGuinness notes. “I’ve got a call into our Hate Crime Unit to see if there is anything to substantiate anything at all.”
McGuinness says while it “makes sense” to draw parallels between the alleged attacks and Pride celebrations, it might be “a bit of a stretch” at this point given what she alleges is Alzghoul’s history of mental illness.
“He doesn’t have much contact with the Vancouver police at all,” McGuinness says, but notes that he is known to Richmond authorities and other Lower Mainland detachments.
“He doesn’t have much in the way of a criminal history so this really has come out of the blue for the most part other than there’s some indication that [there have been] other contacts with police that have the mental health aspect to them,” she says.
Majestic co-owner Vince Marino says he doesn’t think the attacks were specifically aimed at the gay community.
“We didn’t see it [homophobia] and the police also don’t see that,” Marino says, adding, “I think it’s one of these very, very random situations.”
Marino says, as far as he knows, Alzghoul is known to police and “they know he has had mental illness.”
One of the victims of the attack is Majestic manager Richard Chevrier, who was struck on the back of his head, and received “three or four stitches,” according to Marino, who says Chevrier is doing fine.
Alzghoul, who is in police custody, was due to appear in court today.