3 stabbings in December were hate-motivated: Calgary police
Police say a series of stabbings in the downtown core last month has been determined to be hate-motivated and targeting vulnerable Calgarians.
The attacks started at around 4 a.m. on Dec. 21 and lasted for about eight minutes, police said.
The first victim was sprayed with a fire extinguisher and then stabbed in the lower back while near the LRT platform at Seventh Avenue and Fourth Street S.W.
The second victim was sleeping in a bus shelter near Seventh Avenue and Fourth Street S.W. when he was sprayed with a fire extinguisher and stabbed in the abdomen.
The third victim was exiting a CTrain at the Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street S.W. station when he was sprayed with a fire extinguisher and stabbed in the lower back and rib cage.
All three victims were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition and two men were charged.
“We believe the victims were attacked because of their socio-economic status," acting Sgt. Matt Messengerof the hate crime and extremism team said in a news release.
"They were targeted because they were experiencing homelessness and other vulnerabilities.”
The determination that the attacks were hate-motivated won't result in any additional charges, but will be considered by the courts if the two men accused of the attacks are found guilty.
"If the judge decides during sentencing that hate was a motivation for the offence, it is an aggravating factor that can add to the convicted person’s sentence," police explained in a Wednesday news release.
Asher Atter, 21, is charged with:
- Three counts of aggravated assault;
- Three counts of assault with a weapon;
- Two counts of breach of probation, and;
- One count of breach of a release order.
Jaymes Richardson, 29, is charged with:
- Three counts of aggravated assault;
- Three counts of assault with a weapon;
- One count of careless storage of a firearm;
- One count of possession of a weapon dangerous;
- One count of unauthorized possession of a firearm;
- One count of unlicensed weapon;
- One count of no registration of a firearm, and;
- One count of possession of a restricted weapon.
HATE CRIME REPORTING ON THE RISE: POLICE
Reporting of hate crimes has dramatically increased over the course of the past three years, according to the latest statistics from Calgary police.
In 2019, there were 160 files reviewed, 73 of which were determined to be hate-motivated.
That number increased to 240 files reviewed in 2020, 121 of which were determined to be hate motivated.
In 2021 the number of hate crime files reviewed jumped to 388 files, 118 of which were determined to be hate motivated as of the latest count, but that number will increase as results come in from last year, police said.
Messenger says there are a number of different factors that point to an increase, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic certainly didn’t help," Messenger said. "We did see a large increase in Asian-based hate on peers, and again, it’s awareness, so people have lower threshold tolerances for acts like that."
“This is a big concern for us, especially those that are homeless, so we are working on better education in the community and building better trust through investigations, and letting the homeless population know that we are there for them.”
The CPS hate crime and extremism team has now expanded from just one constable to three officers working together to investigate hate motivated crimes.
'WE CAN’T JUDGE PEOPLE ON HOW THEY LOOK': ADVOCATE FOR THE HOMELESS
Paul Jensen spent several years living on the streets in Calgary, struggling with addiction and committing crimes in order to survive.
He has since turned his life around and now works as a peer outreach member on behalf of the Sharp Foundation and other non-profit groups in the city.
Jenson is a strong advocate in providing a voice for the unhoused, and says better education is needed to ensure everyone feels safe on the streets.
“We need more trauma-informed care practices, because if people became more trauma-informed and started realizing what these people have been through to get them to this place, then they can realize what they experienced on a daily basis.”
Jenson adds that earlier this week, he heard of a woman struggling with addiction who was kicked on the street and suffered injuries to her ribs.
“I don't understand this at all, we can’t judge people on how they look,” he said.
“I would encourage people to talk to those experiencing homelessness and hear their story rather than kick them and send them away.”
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