The gay couple who say they were the victims of an unprovoked attack on the SkyTrain say they no longer feel safe, and worry the suspect they say assaulted them might attack someone else.
The suspect, identified as a 36-year-old Vancouver man by Metro Vancouver Transit Police, was arrested on Wednesday afternoon, a few hours after police released surveillance video showing parts of the September 28th attack at Granville Street Station.
Michael and Jay, who didn’t want to use their real names, out of fear that they could be targeted again, told CTV News on Thursday that while they’re relieved by the arrest, the terrifying encounter has deeply impacted their daily lives.
"I do not take (transit) anymore," Michael said. "I’m still scared that this could happen again to us."
"Every day after work, I usually pick up him, because he’s scared to walk (after dark)," Jay, his husband, said.
Michael and Jay paint a disturbing picture of that Friday afternoon, when they decided to make a trip out to Burnaby Lake to enjoy the late summer sunshine.
They caught an Expo Line train at Burrard Station, but the minute they stepped onboard they say another passenger, started shouting homophobic slurs at Michael, then physically attacked him.
"I kind of fell over and was on the floor... and I kept begging him saying 'please stop. I didn’t do anything, please stop,'" Michael remembered. "I was terrified. I thought I was going to die."
The couple say Jay and a stranger eventually pulled the attacker off, but not before the man punched Jay in the face, knocking off his glasses.
Surveillance video from Granville Station shows the suspect, who Michael and Jay identified as the man who attacked them, stepping on and off the train, appearing to shout and shove someone, before he leaves the platform.
"The last time he comes in, he spits in my face and said f*** you," Michael said.
Sgt. Clint Hampton with Transit Police described the incident as "an apparent hate crime," and said investigators have liaised with the BC Hate Crimes unit.
"What’s most concerning about this particular incident is that the precipitating factor appears to be the sexual orientation of these two individuals," Hampton said.
"We do have good reason to believe that there is an element of mental health," he added. "And that’s something we’ll be looking into."
But the pair say they’re not sure they were solely targeted because they’re gay.
"We don’t know if it was a hate crime," said Michael. "I do remember it clearly but I don’t know if it was a hate crime."
Transit police say they got a tip just hours after making a public appeal with surveillance video of the suspect. Hampton says they’ll be recommending assault charges against the 36-year-old Vancouver man, who does not have a criminal record, but is known to police. The suspect has been released on a promise to appear and is due in court in January.
The couple says while they’re relieved police have made an arrest, but more than anything, they want their attacker off the street so they and others can feel safe.
"I want us to feel safe in our own city, and right now I feel like we don’t," added Jay.
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Emad Agahi and David Molko