Vancouver police are searching for a man after an alleged assault in Chinatown that may have been racially motivated.
On Friday morning (May 20) an 87-year-old man who lives in Chinatown was out for his morning walk around 11:40 a.m., according to a press release from police.
While standing at the bus stop near Pender and Columbia streets a stranger approached the man, made racist comments and then bear-sprayed the senior in the face. A passerby witnessed the attack and helped the man.
"Every indication is that this incident was completely unprovoked and may have been fueled by anti-Asian hate,” says Const. Tania Visintin.
After attacking the senior with bear spray, the suspect fled the scene.
“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,” Visintin adds.
The victim was traumatized by the attack and sustained non-life threatening injuries.
The suspect is described as a man in his 30s standing about 6 feet. At the time of the attack he was wearing a black jacket, dark pants, a grey baseball cap, and grey shoes with red trim and white soles. He was carrying a black backpack and had black headphones around his neck.
“Officers have been canvassing Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside since the attack occurred, and earlier today obtained a photo taken at Main and Hastings moments before the attack,” says Constable Tania Visintin in a press release on May 24. Police hope the new image will help identify the suspect.
Police are now looking into whether the attack is related to other racist incidents.
"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," state police in the release. "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."
In just a few years anti-Asian hate crimes and graffiti in Chinatown have both spiked.
"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," say police. "Still, nearly two-thirds of crimes go unreported in the neighbourhood, according to merchants and residents who have spoken to VPD about their concerns."
More officers are on patrol in Chinatown, according to police, to address community concerns.
With additional reporting by Maria Diment.