VANCOUVER Police are investigating after a senior was attacked with bear spray in Chinatown on Friday morning – another troubling incident that appears to be racially motivated, say police.
“Every indication is that this incident was completely unprovoked and may have been fueled by anti-[East] Asian hate,” said Constable Tania Visintin on Saturday.
Police released an image of the suspect 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,” said Visintin.
The 87-year-old victim – a Chinatown resident – was out for his morning walk on Friday when the assault occurred around 11:40 a.m. The victim was standing at the bus stop near Pender and Columbia streets when a stranger came up to him, made racist comments, then bear-sprayed him in the face. The attack was witnessed by at least one passerby who stopped to help.
The suspect fled after the assault and has not been identified. The victim sought help from a nearby business, which called 9-1-1. He was traumatized by the incident, but has non-life-threatening injuries.
Vancouver Police are now investigating whether Friday’s attack is related to offensive graffiti that appeared this week on the red gates outside Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, located just meters 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.
Between 2019 and 2021, there was a 300-per-cent increase in reported graffiti incidents and a 425-per-cent increase in anti-East Asian hate crime incidents in Chinatown. 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 peoples’ sense of safety.”
Vancouver 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 30-40 years old who is about 6 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.