Trailer hitch thrown in assault of First Nations woman in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Police seeking witnesses to drive-by assault with a weapon; First Nations chief calls it a hate crime
A First Nations woman is in hospital after she was struck by a trailer hitch thrown from a moving vehicle last weekend while she was walking in a residential neighbourhood in Thunder Bay, Ont., police say.
The incident is being investigated as an assault with a weapon, according to a police news release issued on Tuesday.
Barbara Kentner, 34, required surgery after being hit in the stomach by the trailer hitch shortly after 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, according to Kentner's sister, Melissa Kentner, who witnessed the incident.
The passenger in the car yelled, 'Oh, I got one,' after throwing the hitch at the sisters who were walking on McKenzie Street between Dease and Cameron streets, Melissa Kentner told CBC News on Monday.
Several First Nations youth who testified last year at an inquest into the deaths of their peers said they have often had things such as eggs or garbage thrown at them while walking on the streets of Thunder Bay.
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A blond-haired passenger was hanging out the window and threw the trailer hitch at her sister, said Kentner, who described the vehicle as a dark grey car with a custom paint job and dark tinted windows, which she had seen in the neighbourhood before.
Kentner said that after the car drove past she went back and picked up the trailer hitch to keep as evidence.
Police said they're looking for other witnesses who may have seen a dark-coloured four-door car in the south-side neighbourhood between 11 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28 and 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 29.
A spokesperson for the police said the alleged assault is not being investigated as a hate crime because there "were no comments made which made any reference to race or ethnicity."
But Kentner told CBC News she believes it was a hate crime, and so does Anna Betty Achneepineskum, a deputy grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.
"They said, 'Oh I got one,' they're referring to wanting to harm someone, an Indigenous person — it's a hate crime," Achneepineskum said.
Too many Indigenous people, including herself have been hit with flying food from passing cars in Thunder Bay, she said, but this incident appears to be an escalation of the violence.
"These people really meant to hurt someone and that's really disturbing," Achneepineskum said.
She's calling on the police to make the investigation a priority and on city leaders to make a plan for dealing with the violence.