3 min

Police belligerent and unprofessional at gaybashing

Officer tells victim: you're lucky we're here because we're off the clock and not getting paid

 A 21-year-old gay man says he was targeted with homophobic slurs and physically attacked outside the McDonald’s at the corner of Abbott and Pender streets in the early hours of Oct 8.

Thomas Pope says the alleged attack occurred after he witnessed two men “yelling at some guys… they were yelling things at them, homophobic remarks.”

Pope says the two men then turned their attention to him.

“They said, ‘What are you looking at, faggot?'” Pope told Xtra.

“I basically just said I’m waiting for my two friends at McDonald’s, and they stood right outside the McDonald’s and just kept on calling me names.”

Pope says his friends eventually emerged from McDonald’s, at which point the two men began calling one of his friends, Jacob Pyne, a faggot too, and “started making fun of him, saying he looked like Edward Scissorhands.”

“One of them came up to me, grabbed me by the pocket of my shirt, ripped all the buttons and started punching me in the face,” Pope alleges.

“He hit me in the jaw a few times, in the nose and in the eyes,” Pope says.

He says the man continued to call him a faggot while punching him.

Pope says the man then punched Pyne in the face and knocked out his tooth after Pyne tried to intervene.

“My friend Sara actually asked the guys, ‘What’s your problem?'” Pope says. “They said that they had no problem with her because she’s a girl; they had a problem with [Jacob and me] because we’re faggots,” Pope alleges.

“She was like, ‘Well, these faggots are my friends,” and then they called her an AIDS whore, because she’s friends with us,” Pope says.

Pope says he called 911 while the two men were fighting Pyne.

The police arrived within two minutes, “which I was really thankful for,” Pope says.

But the officers quickly disappointed him.

Pope says one of the officers told him he was “lucky that they came because they were off the clock, and that they weren’t getting paid for it.”

“They wouldn’t take our statements,” Pope told Xtra. “They told my friend Sara, because she’s friends with us, that her statement doesn’t count, even though she saw the whole thing.”

Pope says when they asked if the men were going to be arrested and charged with assault, the police said, “‘Well, they’re in handcuffs, aren’t they?”‘

At one point, Pope alleges, a woman officer told him, “‘If I didn’t give a shit, I wouldn’t be fucking standing here.”

“She was swearing at us and yelling at us, the police officer,” Pope alleges.

Pope says his sister, Rachel, whom he called to the scene after spending an hour speaking with police, also complained about police treatment when she arrived.

“At one point, my sister was like, ‘Why are you talking to me like I’m an idiot?’ and the woman cop was like, ‘I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to the victims,'” Pope says, indicating the officer used scare quotes on the word “victims” to suggest skepticism.

“If anyone has concerns around the actions of our officers or concerns around some things they may have said, then we would encourage them to contact our professional section,” Vancouver Police Const Lindsey Houghton says.

“It’s my understanding that Mr Pope hasn’t yet filed a formal complaint, and when Mr Pope files a complaint then the investigation will begin,” Houghton adds, when asked if any disciplinary action is being taken against the officers who attended the Oct 8 incident.

“There isn’t any discipline until the end of the investigation if the discipline authority finds any disciplinary defaults under the Police Act.”

Meanwhile, Houghton says no one has been arrested in connection with the incident.

The two men who attacked Pope and Pyne were put in the police wagon that night but later released, Pope says.

Houghton says there are no plans to release a description of the men ––  “not at this time.”

“We’ve identified a number of people involved, and the investigation is proceeding at this time; there are no unknown suspects we’re looking for,” Houghton says.

Disappointed with the police, Pope called Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert for help.

Pope says the police began calling and emailing him several times a day after Chandra Herbert asked some questions.

“They seemed to drop the ball at the beginning but are now working hard to make sure that something can come from this,” Chandra Herbert told Xtra.

“The message is that even if you’ve reported once and it doesn’t look like they’re taking it seriously, to follow it up,” Chandra Herbert says.

“Because Thomas did follow it up, it looks like they now are moving on it, when before they really didn’t seem to be taking it seriously.”

Chandra Herbert says it shouldn’t take an MLA getting involved to make them take the case seriously.

“It’s really sad the way it turned out,” Pope agrees. “I would have really preferred them to do their job in the first place.”

Pope’s jaw was initially thought to be broken. It wasn’t, but he still “can’t fully clench down.”

“It’s 2010, and I don’t think that this should still be happening,” he says.