Toronto Police are investigating an aggravated assault that took place at the Toronto Islands last weekend.
Investigators say a 24-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman were walking to the ferry docks near Hanlan’s Point around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday when they became involved in a disagreement with a group of people.
Police say one man from the group hurled homophobic comments towards one of the victims leading to two suspects viciously assaulting the 24-year-old man “by punching and kicking him, leaving him with significant injuries.”
The first suspect is described as a man, Black, between 25-32 years old, standing 6-foot-4 and around 220 pounds with a muscular build, dreadlocks, and had a bicycle with him.
The second suspect is described as male, white, having a thin build, standing 5-foot-6 and possibly had dreadlocks.
The third suspect is described as female, white, between 22-28 years old, standing 5-foot-5 and 180 pounds with long blonde hair.
“The Service’s dedicated Hate Crime Unit has been notified and is supporting officers from 52 Division with the investigation,” Toronto Police said in its news release.
“This remains an active investigation and extensive inquiries are being carried out including scouring for video, recovering evidence and speaking to witnesses to establish the motive.”
While Toronto police have not commented on the possibility of a CFL player being involved, the Ottawa Redblacks issued a statement late Wednesday, saying they have suspended defensive lineman Chris Larsen.
Larsen told multiple media outlets that he was at Toronto Island during the incident but both he and his lawyer say the allegations made on social media are unfounded and that he was cleared by police. Police later arrested and charged two others in the incident.
“I don’t pretend to know all of the specifics of this incident, but let me say this, the REDBLACKS and OSEG are proud of the role that we play in our community and we are committed to continuing to build an organization, both on and off the field, that reflects the values of our community,” said Mark Goudie, CEO of the REDBLACKS’ parent company, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group.
“We are particularly sorry for the trauma caused to the 2SLGBTQ+ community.”
Several posts online allege the victim, David Gomez, and a friend was out when a group of at least five people began shouting at them and hurling slurs until things escalated to violence.
“I was knocked unconscious and beat nearly to death,” wrote Gomez in a social media post. “I was dragged around, kicked, and punched in the face.”
Gomez was rushed to hospital with a broken nose, fractures to his face, a broken tooth, and other injuries.
Toronto Mayor John Tory issued a statement condemning the homophobic assault.
“I am very disturbed at the series of events we are seeing close at hand in recent weeks which feature acts of hatred and hate speech,” said Tory.
“…The assault of any resident is unacceptable and so too is the use of homophobic language towards any resident or any hate-motivated violence. There is absolutely no place for homophobia in our city. It’s time to once again say an emphatic ‘no’ to this hateful violence.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also commented on the assault, saying, “Everyone in Ontario should feel safe no matter their race, faith, gender or sexual orientation.”
“In Pride month and always, all spaces should be safe spaces. My thoughts are with David Gomez and hope for a speedy recovery,” Horwath tweeted on Wednesday.
Everyone in Ontario should feel safe no matter their race, faith, gender or sexual orientation.
In Pride month and always, all spaces should be safe spaces.
My thoughts are with David Gomez and hope for a speedy recovery.
— Andrea Horwath (@AndreaHorwath) June 9, 2021
City councillor Joe Cressy called the act “appalling.”
“This weekend, a man was brutally attacked while visiting the Toronto Islands. Police are investigating the incident as a potential hate crime. This violence is appalling, and my thoughts are with the victim,” Cressy tweeted.
“There is no place in our city for violence, homophobia, or hatred.”
CityNews spoke with a friend of Gomez who confirms he had since undergone surgery and is currently recovering.
Queer community shaken by attack during Pride Month
The Toronto LGBTQ2S+ community and those in support are reacting to the homophobic attack, which fell during Pride Month.
My queer friend was beaten unconscious yesterday on his way home from the beach in Toronto. They followed him shouting homophobic slurs and when they caught him they spoke hate with their fists and feet. It shouldn't be like this. Pride is a protest for a reason. #pride
— Tyler Boyce (@TylerKBoyce) June 8, 2021
“It’s maddening to think that during Pride Month, we still have to watch our backs in areas like Hanlan’s that have served as an enclave and safe haven for the queer community for as long as some of us can remember,” wrote Cianan Liburd in a statement.
“These kinds of attacks highlight why it is important that Pride Toronto brings awareness of homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, in our community,” wrote Pride Toronto in an Instagram post.
“It is heartbreaking to hear this happened during Pride Month–an attack on one is an attack on all.”
An online fundraiser for the victim has raised over $20,000.
“I welcome the fact that police have publicly stated they are investigating this as a possible hate crime and working to identify the suspects involved,” Mayor Tory added.
“I know the report of this attack is alarming to our city’s 2SLGBTQ+ communities. I stand with these communities in condemning this attack and any threats or violence against our 2SLGBTQ+ residents.”
“People should be free to go anywhere in the city without fear of being attacked for their sexual orientation,” he said.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on July 22, 2021.