The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) is searching for a man who reportedly bear-sprayed an elderly victim in Vancouver’s Chinatown last week.
The assault occurred on Friday at around 11:40 a.m. at the bus stop near Pender Street and Columbia Street. The victim, an 87-year-old Chinatown resident, was standing at the bus stop when the suspect “came up to him, made racist comments, then bear-sprayed him in the face,” the VPD said in a news release.
Constable Tania Visintin said the assault was witnessed by at least one passerby who immediately assisted the victim following the attack. Visintin also said there might have been more witnesses considering when and where the incident occurred.
“Every indication is that this incident was completely unprovoked and may have been fuelled by anti-Asian hate,” Visintin said. “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.”
The VPD said the elderly victim, whose identity has not been revealed, did not suffer life-threatening physical injuries but was left traumatized by the attack.
On Saturday, the VPD released a picture of the attacker, describing him as a 6-foot-tall man between 30 and 40 years old. He was last seen wearing a black jacket, dark-colored pants and gray shoes with red trim and white soles. He also had a gray baseball cap and a black backpack.
Authorities are investigating whether the Friday attack is connected to the graffiti that appeared on the red gates outside Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden last week. The garden, which shares a block with the Vancouver Chinese Cultural Center, was previously vandalized by unknown individuals in January.
The recent vandalism incident occurred just a short distance away from where the elderly Chinatown resident was bear-sprayed.
“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 neighborhood,” the VPD said.
Vancouver’s Chinatown saw a 300 percent increase in reported graffiti incidents between 2019 and 2021 and a 425 percent increase in anti-Asian hate incidents during that same period, according to the VPD.
“People who live and work in Chinatown deserve to feel safe, valued, and respected,” Visintin added. “Violent and unprovoked attacks, rampant graffiti, and street disorder are appalling, and these incidents continue to erode people’s sense of safety.”
The VPD’s Major Crimes Section and Hate Crimes Team are now investigating the Friday attack.
Anyone who may have information about the incident is urged to contact investigators at 604-717-4034.