A senior was traumatized after he was attacked with bear spray in Vancouver’s Chinatown on Friday, the latest racially motivated attack in the city, police say.
The 87-year-old victim, a Chinatown resident, was out for his morning walk when the assault occurred at around 11:40 a.m., according to police. He was standing at the bus stop near Pender and Columbia streets when a stranger came up to him, made racist comments, then sprayed him in the face.
Visintin said the attack was witnessed by at least one passerby who stopped to help.
“Every indication is that this incident was completely unprovoked and may have been fuelled by anti-Asian hate,” said Const. Tania Visintin, a spokeswoman for the Vancouver police.
On Saturday, Visintin released an image of a person of interest taken from a CCTV camera in the area.
“Given the time of day and the location of this incident, we believe there were witnesses who have not yet come forward. We also believe there will be people who recognize the suspect and can help us identify him,” she said.
The attacker fled after the assault and hasn’t been identified. The senior sought help from a nearby business, which called 911. Police say he was traumatized by the incident but has no physical life-threatening injuries.
Investigators are looking into whether Friday’s attack is related to offensive graffiti that appeared this week on the red gates outside the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, located just metres away from where the senior was assaulted. The graffiti — the word “Shhh” in white paint — was interpreted by many in the community as a backlash to Chinatown residents who have been increasingly speaking up about crime and safety concerns in their neighbourhood, according to police.
Between 2019 and 2021, there was a 300 per cent increase in reported graffiti incidents and a 425 per cent increase in anti-Asian hate crime incidents in Chinatown, police said.
Still, nearly two-thirds of crimes go unreported in the neighbourhood, according to merchants and residents who have spoken to VPD about their concerns.
“People who live and work in Chinatown deserve to feel safe, valued and respected,” said Visintin. “Violent and unprovoked attacks, rampant graffiti and street disorder are appalling, and these incidents continue to erode people’s sense of safety.”
She said police have stepped up patrols in Chinatown, and are working closely with merchants and residents in the community to address community concerns like graffiti, street disorder and racist incidents.
Investigators from VPD’s hate crimes team and major crimes section are reviewing evidence from Friday’s assault.
Police are looking for a man 30 to 40 years old who is about six feet tall. He was wearing a black jacket, dark-coloured pants, a grey baseball cap, grey shoes with red trim and white soles, and was carrying a black backpack.
Anyone who has information or anyone who recognizes the suspect is asked to call investigators at 604-717-4034.
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