West End 'not safe' after hate crime: victim
Jon Woodward, ctvbc.ca
Published Monday, September 29, 2008 9:03AM PDT
A man who was swarmed and beaten in what police say is likely a hate crime says he doesn't feel safe in Vancouver's gay-friendly West End any more.
Jordan Smith, 27, said he was lucky to get away with only a broken jaw after four men screamed insults and then attacked him as he was holding hands with a friend on Davie Street early Saturday morning.
"I could have been dead. My friend could have been beaten up," said Smith.
"I would say watch what you do," he said when asked if other gay people should be worried. "It's not safe right now."
Smith and a friend were walking along Davie Street and Hornby Street at 5 a.m. Saturday, holding hands, when they were approached by four Indo-Canadian men.
"They started screaming obscenities at us, fags, queers, anything you can imagine," recalled Smith. "The stuff they said to us was disgusting."
"They kind of swarmed us. All I remember was seeing a light at the side of my face. The guy sucker-punched me in the jaw, cracked it in three places."
Smith fell to the pavement, and the group of men set upon him, he said.
Police said it would have been worse if passers-by hadn't told the attackers they were calling the police.
"I have no doubt in my mind that the assault would have continued, based on that behaviour," said Vancouver Police Inspector John McKay.
The group fled down the street but were apprehended in an alley only a block away.
Twenty-year-old Michael Kandola is now facing a charge of assault causing bodily harm. He was released from custody Saturday evening.
Police say the crime should be prosecuted as a hate crime, which may make the penalty more severe.
Workers at a local community centre say they hear similar stories of violence and verbal abuse.
But when they encourage the victims to come forward, they often hesitate.
"We know that a lot of people are still quite afraid of what they're going to encounter when they call police, and whether they'll be taken seriously," said Jennifer Breakspear, the executive director of The Centre.
There's so much concern about the lack of reporting that the Centre is teaming up with police to hold a series of public meetings starting next month.
"We're going to be going out into our communities with the police and asking if there is underreporting of crimes in our community, and why," she said.
Smith says he's going into surgery on Monday to wire his jaw shut so it can set properly.
"I'm not looking forward to that," he said.
Smith said he's happy for the police response and glad that the crime was taken seriously.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Reshmi Nair and Maria Weisgarber