A Nova Scotia gay man will be fighting for the ability to walk again after a vicious stabbing Oct 13 in New Glasgow, as his attacker faces a slew of charges that may soon include a hate crime.
But Scott Jones’s friends say that he is recovering well and that, despite his injuries, he's already contemplating ways to get back into the community.
Jones, 27, was leaving a bar with friends around 2am on Oct 13 when two men approached him. Witnesses say that one of the men distracted Jones's friend as the other produced a knife and stabbed Jones twice in the back, severing his spinal cord. The man then attempted to slit Jones's throat.
One of the men, 19-year-old Shane Edward Matheson of nearby Trenton, will be facing charges of attempted murder and aggravated assault.
A spokesperson for the New Glasgow Police Service told Xtra that the investigation is ongoing and that detectives from both the major crimes and the forensic units are conducting interviews to gauge whether Jones's sexual orientation served as a motive for the attack. If so, police have the option of categorizing the attack as a hate crime, and the Crown can seek a tougher sentence if there is a conviction. Police are also investigating whether a second man was involved. They say that Matheson and Jones did not know each other.
More charges are pending against Matheson, who was arrested on Oct 13 in connection with an unrelated attack on a woman known to the accused.
After police found Jones, he was rushed to hospital and airlifted to a Halifax hospital, where doctors told him that he would be paralyzed from the waist down. It's unclear whether Jones will ever regain the ability to walk. The wound to his neck was superficial.
Stephanie Cooper was out with Jones on the night in question. She also manages Baked Cafe, where Jones worked up until the attack. Cooper says she recognizes Matheson from the bar but could provide little other information. She did recall that Jones complained that Matheson was giving him strange looks during the night.
Amy Punke, another friend who was at the bar, says Jones called the look "a sneer." She's convinced that the attack was because of homophobia.
Punke was the first to join Jones in the hospital. She says his spirits are "remarkable."
“An hour or an hour and a half after the attack, he was like how I always see him — full of life." Within a day, the two were planning the choir that Jones intends to start up once he's out of the hospital — an inclusive choir, where sexuality isn't a barrier.
While the doctors have given a worst-case scenario, Jones and the people around him are optimistic that he will walk again.
"I have hope," Punke says. "And Scott has hope. And his family has hope."
Cooper says there is a trust fund in the works, and there will be events and fundraisers in the coming days. She's currently trying to secure a stash of rainbow flag paraphernalia.
Cooper, who moved to Nova Scotia from Toronto a year ago, says the plan is to keep agitating for acceptance in the small, tight-knit town. She says that while she's never experienced outright homophobia, there's definitely "a feeling or a buzz."
"You can feel defeated being in this community," she says but notes the support base that exists in New Glasgow is instrumental in making things better. "There's just enough to get by."
Cooper's restaurant organized a Pride party two summers ago. "We just wanted to provide a celebratory environment for those who are supportive and for those who are proud," she says.
This year, the town held its first Pride week.
Xtra is following this story.