Vancouver police are investigating a possible hate crime where a suspect assaulted a 92-year-old Asian man with severe dementia.
“Everything about this assault and the behaviour of the suspect is despicable,” said Const. Tania Visintin in a news release Wednesday.
The senior had wandered into an East Vancouver convenience store on the afternoon of March 13. As staff were trying to help him, a customer entered and started yelling “racist remarks at the victim that included comments about COVID-19,” said police.
Surveillance video shows the suspect grab the senior to take him out of the store, and then shove him. The push causes the 92-year-old to fall to the ground outside the store doors and hit his head.
“As a police department, we do not tolerate incidents motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate. It’s even more disturbing considering the victim’s age,” said Visintin.
The suspect left the store before police arrived.
UPDATE - April 30, 2020: Vancouver police said they’ve made “significant leads” and have identified a “viable suspect” after receiving tips from the community. The investigation is ongoing, said Sgt. Aaron Roed, and no charges have yet been presented to the Crown.
Increase in reports
Around the world, reports of discrimination against Asian people have increased as the novel coronavirus outbreak that was first identified in Wuhan, China turned into a global pandemic.
Vancouver police said they’ve seen an increase in “anti-Asian hate-motivated incidents and criminal behaviour” in March.
In all of 2019, there were 12 anti-Asian hate crimes reported to Vancouver police. So far this year, there are already nine such reports.
“We know that hate crimes and hate-motivated incidents are generally underreported. We believe the increase in March is indicative of a larger issue,” said Visintin. “We are making a plea to victims or people who witness hate crimes to please come forward and report the incidents to police so they can be investigated.”
Anyone with information about the assault that happened near Nanaimo Street and East 1st Avenue is asked to call Vancouver police investigators at (604) 717-2963 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.