Victim of Toronto Island beating ‘somewhat comforted’ police have made arrest in attack

A young man who was beaten near Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island says he is “somewhat comforted” that police have made an arrest in the assault that left him with significant injuries in early June.

David Gomez, 24, in a statement released by his lawyer Luba Szkambara on Monday, said it is important to remember that the beating on the night of June 5 was a hate crime.

Gomez was knocked unconscious and suffered a broken nose, cheekbone and orbital bone, an injury to his hip and a concussion, according to a crowdfunding campaign that raised nearly $49,000 for him.

“On June 5, 2021, not even a full week into the month designated as Pride month, I was attacked and left unconscious on my way home from Hanlan’s Point. The attack was brutal and left me with serious injuries,” Gomez said in the statement. 

“Given the circumstances surrounding the incident, I have no question I was a target because I am a gay man. This attack was a hate crime, not just against me but against all 2SLGBTQ+ people.”

On Saturday, police announced that they have arrested Elijah McGibbon, 24, and charged him with one count of aggravated assault. He is due to appear at court at Old City Hall on Monday, July 26.

Gomez continues: “I am somewhat comforted the police investigation led to an arrest this past weekend. I will continue to co-operate with the police investigation and want the individuals responsible for this assault to be held accountable.”

Gomez added it is not a coincidence that the attack happened during Pride month, saying systemic discrimination fuels hate crimes.

“Over the last several years, Pride has become a joyous celebration of our 2SLGBTQ+ identities in all our diversity and splendour. But we must not erase the fact the earliest manifestations of Pride were not merely celebrations, but acts of resistance and defiance in the face of oppression and discrimination against our community. 

“As we celebrate Pride this month, we cannot lose sight of the fact that systemic discrimination still emboldens individuals to perpetrate hate crimes against our community. We cannot abandon the resistance and defiance of those early Pride celebrations, but must understand that, as far as we’ve come, the work of resistance and defiance is not yet done.”

According to police, a 24-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman were walking to the ferry docks at around 11:30 p.m. on June 5 when they “became involved in a disagreement with a group of people.”

That’s when, police said, a man from that second group of people made homophobic comments toward the victims.

A woman from the second group grabbed one of the pair, police say. Then, two men from the group punched and kicked the man, leaving him with “significant injuries.” Gomez later identified himself as the victim when contacted by CBC News.

CFL player no longer considered suspect, lawyer says

In the days after the assault was reported, social media posts alleged that a member of the Canadian Football League’s Ottawa Redblacks was one of the people involved in the attack.

The Redblacks subsequently announced that defensive lineman Chris Larsen had been suspended from the team, pending an ongoing investigation.

 Calvin Barry, a lawyer for Larsen, said the football player is no longer a suspect.

The Redblacks, however, have not provided an update on the suspension. Police have said the investigation remains active.

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