VPD investigates unprovoked attack on Chinatown senior

Vancouver- Vancouver police are investigating after a senior citizen was attacked Friday morning with bear spray in Chinatown – another disturbing incident that appears to be racially motivated.

“Everything indicates that this incident was completely unprovoked and may have been fueled by anti-Asian hatred,” said Officer Tania Visintin, who released a photo of the suspect taken with a CCTV camera in the area.

“Given the time and location of this incident, we believe there were witnesses who have not yet come forward. We also believe there will be people who will recognize the suspect and help us identify him.”

The 87-year-old victim — a resident of Chinatown — was out for a walk on Friday when the attack happened around 11:40 a.m. The victim was standing at the bus stop near Pender and Columbia streets when a stranger approached him, made racist comments, and then 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 company, which called 9-1-1. He was traumatized by the incident but has no life-threatening injuries.

Vancouver police are now investigating whether Friday’s attack is related to offensive graffiti that appeared on the red gates outside Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, just meters away from where the senior was attacked. The graffiti — the word “Shhh” in white paint — has been interpreted by many in the community as a response to Chinatown residents’ increasingly vocal voices about crime and security concerns in their neighborhood.

Between 2019 and 2021, there was a 300 percent increase in reported graffiti incidents and a 425 percent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in Chinatown. Still, nearly two-thirds of crimes in the neighborhood go unreported, according to traffickers and residents who spoke to VPD about their concerns.

“People who live and work in Chinatown deserve to feel safe, valued and respected,” adds Constable Visintin. “Violent and unprovoked attacks, rampant graffiti and street disorder are appalling, and these incidents continue to affect people’s sense of security.”

The Vancouver Police Department has stepped up patrols in Chinatown and is working closely with traffickers and community residents to address community issues such as graffiti, street disorder and racist incidents. Investigators from the VPD’s Hate Crimes team and the Major Crimes Department are reviewing evidence from Friday’s attack.

The police are looking for a man aged 30-40 with a height of about 1.80 meters. He was wearing a black jacket, dark pants, a gray baseball cap, gray shoes with red trims and white soles and was carrying a black backpack.

Anyone with information or anyone who recognizes the suspect is asked to call investigators at 604-717-4034.

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