British Columbia

Nanaimo RCMP arrest man for alleged homophobic attack at student party

Nanaimo RCMP said the suspect turned himself in to police on Tuesday around 10 p.m. PT. He had been identified early on in the investigation, a police spokesperson said.

Suspect not being named by police until charges are filed but is expected to appear in court May 24

A close-up picture of an RCMP shoulder badge.
Nanaimo RCMP said the suspect had been identified early on in the investigation. (CBC)

Police in Nanaimo, B.C., have arrested a 19-year-old man allegedly involved in an assault on a gay student from Vancouver Island University. 

Nanaimo RCMP said the suspect turned himself in to police on Tuesday around 10 p.m. PT. He had been identified early on in the investigation, a police spokesperson said.

"He was aware that we were looking for him," Const. Gary O'Brien told CBC News on Wednesday. "What we are looking for is people who were at that party who have not come forward.

"We know there's individuals who saw or witnessed something; they may even have cellphone video."

The incident occurred at an off-campus party on Saturday. CBC News spoke to the alleged victim, Spencer Frey, 19.

Frey, who openly identifies as gay, said he and a friend attended a house party with other students, where several attendees there verbally and sexually assaulted him throughout the evening. 

The assaults escalated, Frey said, when a third young man approached him, accusing him of staring and then punched Frey in the face when he denied the accusations.

Frey said he was knocked to the ground and sustained more blows to the face before he and his friend managed to leave without his shoes.

Vancouver Island University student Spencer Frey said he was the victim of an unprovoked homophobic attack at an off-campus party late Saturday evening. (Submitted by Spencer Frey)

As a result of the assaults, Frey said he was left with a swollen face, black eye, injuries to his mouth and contusions on his neck where, he says, someone tried to strangle him with his collar. 

Police said they're not ruling out there being additional suspects, and that they believe there is a video of the altercation.

VIU's associate vice president of student affairs, Irlanda Gonzalez Price, said earlier this week the school is taking the incident very seriously and is working with the RCMP to investigate what the university called a "hate crime."

"As of Sunday morning, VIU has been in contact with the student and family and are offering ongoing support," the statement read, adding that it's working with campus partners to "enhance training and awareness activities that help build allyship."

Nanaimo RCMP said the arrested suspect was served with an undertaking for one count of assault, but charges have not yet been approved by the Crown.

The suspect is not being named by police until charges are filed, but he is expected to appear in Nanaimo Provincial Court on May 24.

With files from Rhianna Schmunk and Adam van der Zwan

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