2 min

Logical fallacy plagues Chris Skinner murder investigation

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

On Oct 25, 1,000 people or more marched silently from Church and Wellesley Sts to the spot where, on Oct 18, Chris Skinner was horribly murdered.

It was a beautiful and elegant celebration of his life and protest of the ghastly way he died. In the mainstream press, accounts of the ongoing investigation into his murder now focus on the idea, put forward by Toronto police early on, that the attack may have been precipitated after Skinner “intentionally or unintentionally” came in contact with the SUV that ran him down seconds later. (More details and the video here).

Skinner hit the SUV immediately prior to the attack, is the implication whispered by police and shouted by the mainstream press, he was therefore beaten to the ground and crushed to death in retaliation. He at least partly brought it on himself. If he hadn’t hit the SUV, he might not be dead. What nonsense.

Police say the final piece of CCTV video they released documents the near miss between Skinner and the SUV. They say they have an eyewitness whose story adds credibility to that scenario. But although there’s not too much to see in the video, I’ve watched it again and again and I can’t see anything to suggest Skinner came in contact with or dodged the SUV.

Check it out starting at 46 seconds and read more details about what you’re seeing here.

In the video he doesn’t flinch or flail. His head doesn’t spin around in the direction of the departing SUV. He certainly doesn’t take off in retreat or pursuit. When, after a long pause, he walks slowly out of frame, he clearly has his head down, engrossed by his cellular device or merely his own feet, not up glowering at the backside of the SUV about to grind him under its wheels.

Let’s be clear: Police seem to be taking this investigation seriously and, with the obvious exception of there being at press time no arrest, are handling it well. At press conferences lead investigator det Stacey Gallant seems genuinely angry that someone deliberately chose to run Skinner down.

Gallant’s suggestion that there may be a traffic dispute element to the motive in this crime may be calculated to keep people from jumping to erroneous and early conclusions, but it doesn’t necessarily imply that homophobia wasn’t a factor in the attack, nor does Gallant’s suggestion that there is no evidence that Skinner was targeted only because he was gay.

All discussion of motive in this case is speculation at this stage. Assigning motive requires insight into the heart and mind of the bastard driving the SUV that ran Skinner down, and so far we don’t even know who he is.

But since we’re all speculating, I have another theory.

I didn’t know Skinner but by all accounts he looked gay, acted gay and sounded gay. He was fey. It’s possible the attack against him unfolded without a single homophobic epithet being flung. But even in that case it’s possible, even likely, that Skinner’s attackers decided to kill him, or precluded mercy, after one look at him and just a few words from his lips.

Had he spoken with the clipped cadence of a professional hockey player, had he been wearing a Leafs jersey or a baseball hat that night, would the outcome have been different?

I don’t know the answer to that question any more than I know whether they called him a faggot before they killed him.

What I do know is that Skinner, a gay man, was horribly murdered in his own city just blocks from home. His is yet another in a very long list of stories about gay and lesbian people violently killed or injured under mysterious circumstances.

That alone is more than enough to raise a crowd to the corner of Church and Wellesley.