Toronto police are looking for three suspects after a Toronto man says he was followed by a group of men who taunted him with homophobic slurs before beating him “nearly to death” on the Toronto Island over the weekend.
Police say a 24-year-old man was assaulted by a group of people after they made homophobic comments towards him and the woman he was with while walking to the ferry docks.
In a social media post prefaced with a sarcastic “Happy Pride,” David Gomez said he was on his way home from Hanlan’s Point late Saturday night when a group of men starting following him and calling him a “f****t and h**o.”
Gomez says he was then “knocked unconscious and beat nearly to death” while being “dragged around, kicked and punched in the face.”
Gomez says he suffered a broken nose, fractures to his face, a broken tooth and other injuries in the attack. CityNews spoke with a friend of Gomez’s who says he has since undergone surgery and is currently recovering.
Police are investigating the incident and say they are looking for two men and woman in connection with the alleged assault.
The first suspect is described as a Black man, aged 25 to 32 years old, six foot four with a muscular build and dreadlocks. He also had a bicycle with him.
The second suspect is described as a white man with a thin build, five foot six inches and possible had dreadlocks. The last suspect is a white woman, 22 to 28 years old, five foot five inches, 180 pounds with long blonde hair.
The Hate Crime Unit has also been notified and is assisting the investigation. Police say extensive inquires are still being carried to including looking for video and speaking with witnesses.
Toronto’s LGBTQ2S+ community and supporters say the alleged homophobic-motivated attack during Pride month is evidence that more work has to be done to stamp out bigotry.
“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 Gomez’s friend 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.”
The statement is accompanied by a blurry photo that has been circulating online of the alleged attackers.
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
Also straight people don’t go to Hanlans Beach. It’s a safe space for our community and if you’re not an ally. You don’t belong there.
— Juice Boxx (@JuiceBoxxQueen) June 8, 2021
Social media users have identified one of the alleged attackers as a CFL player on the Ottawa Redblacks team.
While Toronto police have not commented on the possibility of a CFL player being involved, the team 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.”
“There were apparently bystanders, INCLUDING the police, who made a shallow attempt at calming tempers,” wrote Liburd on a GoFundMe page.
Toronto Mayor John Tory says he is disturbed by a reported assault, adding there is no place for homophobia in the city.
“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.
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.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on July 21, 2021.