NEWS

Panhandler sets hair on fire in disturbing Vancouver video

11/12/2014 01:04 EST | Updated 01/11/2015 05:59 EST
A disturbing video posted to LiveLeak of a panhandler setting his hair on fire, as others egg him on is generating a lot of discussion online and elsewhere about compassion.

In the undated video, an unidentified man in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood being encouraged by a group of men, can be seen lighting his hair on fire.

"Yeah, yeah all of it," they say laughing as his hair begins to catch.

When the flames spread and the man's hair begins going up in flames, they finally tell him to stop.

"Dude don't burn your hair. Don't. I'll give you this for free" 

Gastown Pekinpah restaurant manager Andre Lagace says "it's a lot of frat boy mentality that happens late at night."

"Some people, they were in the restaurant too drunk so they were asked to leave," he said.  While they were out in the front here, they were getting someone to light their hair on fire"

Local business owners say they often see the man int the area, and believe he suffers from mental health issues.

"Very harmless. He asks for change that's about it," said Lagace.

Stunt for money?

According to several online comments, the man regularly asks for money in exchange for lighting his hair or beard on fire. But even if true, many people say it doesn't excuse the behaviour of the crowd.

It's an act of violence based on the notion that this person's life does not have value," said DJ Larkin with Pivot Legal Society.  

"And if you use your privileged life to cause someone to light their hair on fire for your entertainment, that's an assaultive behaviour. We need to take that kind of behaviour very seriously."

The Vancouver police department says the video appears to have been edited and to be incomplete. It says there is no "overt force" from another person to immediately suggest an assault.

Earlier this year, police launched an investigation after video emerged of a young man offering a panhandler $50 in exchange for a kick in the groin. Police investigated but no charges were laid. 

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