The Vancouver man who suffered severe head injuries after being sucker punched at the Fountainhead Pub Mar 13 has started to speak.
It was thought that Ritchie Dowrey would never speak again, but his friend Lindsay Wincherauk says Dowrey’s condition is improving.
“He’s speaking very faintly,” says Wincherauk. “It’s very encouraging. It’s a long road ahead.”
“It’s very difficult to see him this way,” Wincherauk adds, saying he’s unsure if Dowrey recognized his friends when they visited him in Vancouver General Hospital.
Dowrey went over backwards and struck his head with what Wincherauk described as “a sickening thud” on the pub’s floor last month after a man allegedly punched him near the pool table.
Dowrey’s friends followed his alleged assailant down the street and contained him for police.
Shawn Woodward, 35, has been charged with aggravated assault in connection with the incident.
“He’s a faggot. He deserved it. I’m not a fag. The faggot touched me. He deserved it,” Woodward allegedly told witnesses after the incident.
Neither Woodward nor his lawyer Joel Whysall showed up for their scheduled appearance in court Apr 15.
Whysall says he continues to review police reports and witness statements. He says he’s also awaiting further disclosure from the Crown.
His client is “very concerned about Mr Dowrey’s injuries,” Whysall says.
“It certainly was unexpected, the extent of the injuries,” Whysall says. “We’re just hoping Mr Dowrey continues to improve as much as possible.”
The attack sparked range in Vancouver’s gay community, a population already upset over the apparent unwillingness of Crown prosecutors to seek hate crime designations in gaybashing cases.
On Apr 5, that rage was channeled into a rally, where more than 2,000 gays, lesbians and allies marched down Davie St to take back the West End.
While their words were different, speaker after speaker pressed home a simple message: enough is enough.
Vancouver has seen five gaybashing trials in the last eight years. Only once has the Crown sought a hate crime designation, Vancouver-Burrard MLA Spencer Herbert pointed out, asking the crowd to send a message that gaybashings must be treated as hate crimes and stiffer sentences sought.
The attack on Dowrey is only the latest in a string of gaybashings reported since last fall.
Jordan Smith was attacked last September as he and another man walked hand in hand down Davie St.
Smith’s jaw was broken in the attack and had to be wired shut for a month and a half to heal. His attackers allegedly called him a “fucking faggot” and swarmed him.
Michael Kandola is facing one count of aggravated assault in connection with that incident. A preliminary inquiry into his case is scheduled to begin Jun 10 in provincial court on Main St.
Police are also still investigating Chad Wilkinson’s gaybashing last November but have yet to lay any charges.
Wilkinson says a group of young men called him a faggot, then punched and kicked him repeatedly in the head at the corner of Davie and Richards Sts in the early morning hours of Nov 8.
A few weeks later, Chris Hiller says he was attacked near Davie and Burrard.
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.”
And a 43-year-old man has been charged with assault causing bodily harm in connection with an alleged gaybashing on Mar 14.
VPD Const Jana McGuinness says two men were standing at the corner of Bute and Robson Sts waiting for the light to change when Kevin Lee Mercredi allegedly punched one of them in the head and neck from behind. McGuinness says the man fell to ground, cutting his forehead open on the sidewalk.
The VPD’s hate crime unit has reviewed the file and believes the offence was “motivated by hate, bias, or prejudice,” McGuiness says. “They’re requesting upon conviction that Crown make an application for sentencing considerations relating to that.”
Woodward returns to court May 7.