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Police at the scene where Gerald Dumas was set on fire behind the 500 block of Selkirk Avenue. ((CBC))

Family members of a Winnipeg father who was attacked and set on fire say they are stunned by the apparently random act of brutality.

Gerald Dumas, 47, was doused with a flammable liquid and set ablaze around 11:30 p.m. CT Friday in a back alley off the 500 block of Selkirk Avenue.

Police said his clothes and skin were in flames when officers arrived and they had to use a fire extinguisher before they could approach him. Dumas remains in critical condition in hospital with third-degree burns across his back, stomach and head.

Police said Sunday that Dumas was walking alone down the alley when he was accosted and knocked down. Someone went through his pockets and found a container with flammable liquid, poured it on him and set him on fire.

A 19-year-old Winnipeg man has been charged with aggravated assault, robbery with violence and breach of probation in connection with the case.

Dumas was so badly burned that he can't even speak, said his niece, Jessica Dumas.

"The only way I recognize him is because I know him," she said, adding if her uncle recovers he'll never be the same. "He's got no facial features. Like you can't see his face at all. His tongue has been burnt."

She said Dumas may have been walking home from the Merchants Hotel, a block from his house, when he was attacked.

Random horror

Dumas thinks the attack was totally random, since her uncle was known as a gentle person who wouldn't provoke anyone.

The family is no stranger to tragedy. Jessica Dumas's brother Matthew was shot and killed by police in 2005 on nearby Dufferin Avenue. And her cousin, Leon Dumas, was shot and killed in 2006 at the nearby Lord Selkirk Park housing complex.

Jessica Dumas says all that tragedy doesn't make her uncle's attack any easier to bear. "It's like, oh my goodness, we have to do this again."

Doctors have told the family it will take days to determine how well Dumas will recover.

Dumas's aunt, Joyce Spilchuk, said he is an unaggressive man with two children.

"I was devastated," Spilchuk said. "My nephew [is] a gentle giant. He doesn't touch or hurt anybody."