Man charged in assault on 'homeless hero'

A second suspect has been arrested in connection to a violent attack that sent Winnipeg's so-called "homeless hero" to hospital on the weekend.

Woman earlier arrested and charged following weekend beating

A second suspect has been arrested in connection with a violent attack that sent Winnipeg's so-called "homeless hero" to hospital on the weekend.

Faron Hall, 45, twice made national headlines last year for rescuing people from drowning in the Red River.

But on Saturday, he was the one who needed help after a brutal beating in his apartment left him unrecognizable.

'He's been beaten so badly that had they not told me that that's him in that bed, I would not have recognized him," said Marion Willis, a close friend of Hall.

Hall was rushed to hospital in critical condition just after 3 p.m. but has since been upgraded to serious but stable condition, police said.

A 31-year-old woman, Geraldine Ruth Colomb, was arrested and charged on Saturday with aggravated assault. On Sunday afternoon, Darrell Walter Longclaws, 31, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and three counts of breaching probation.

He has been detained at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.

Both suspects were known to Hall, said police spokeswoman Const. Jacqueline Chaput.

The three people had been socializing inside the apartment on Marion Street in the city's St. Boniface neighbourhood, she said.

"And unfortunately, a verbal dispute escalated to a serious assault," Chaput said, adding that Hall was allegedly beaten with a broken piece of furniture.

Alcohol partly to blame: stepdaughter

Hall's stepdaughter, Kristy Assin, said it's hard to believe he could survive such an attack.

"It was just unbelievable how brutal this attack was," she said, standing outside the Health Sciences Centre on Sunday.

Hall is still very confused about the events leading up to the attack, Assin said.

She said the people charged were thought to be Hall's friends, but she blames alcohol for the incident.

Although Hall graduated in December from a five-week addictions program, he had recently returned to drinking, Assin said.

The program needs to be improved, said Willis, who points to a lack of after-care.

"You know what? Nobody has spent any time planning with him," she said.

"Is it surprising that when the doors to the treatment centre open, that he relapsed before noon? I'm not surprised. I don't think any of us should be surprised."

Willis is trying to arrange for a number of social services to be in touch with Hall once he leaves the hospital. Without that support, he'll end up back on the street, she said.

"One thing is for sure, he absolutely must not be discharged from this hospital to go back to exactly the same circumstances that sent him to the treatment centre, because essentially that is what's happened and it's why he is where he is today," Willis said.

Heroism captured national attention

In May 2009, Hall made national headlines when he saved Joseph Mousseau, 19, from drowning in the icy Red River. Despite the fast-moving current, swollen from spring flooding, Hall swam out and pulled the teen to safety.

He was later presented with the Mayor's Medal of Valour.

Then in September, he rescued his friend, Tara Beardy, from the same river near where they had been sitting by the Norwood Bridge.

At the time of the first rescue, Hall had been homeless for years, often staying on the banks of the river and drinking heavily.

Saving the boy's life was a personal turning point, he told CBC News in December, when he was awarded two commendations from Manitoba's chapter of the Royal Lifesaving Society in a ceremony at Winnipeg’s Main Street Project homeless shelter.

Shortly after the May rescue, Hall moved into an apartment with the help of Willis, who witnessed the rescue and has kept in touch with him.