Witness comes forward in alleged Thunder Bay hate crime
Teen says he saw First Nations woman dragged into vehicle
A teenager tells CBC News he witnessed an alleged hate crime in Thunder Bay but says said he doesn’t trust police enough to share his story with them.
The 19-year-old Oji-Cree youth said he was walking back home from getting a slice of pizza on Dec. 27 when two men in a van tried to run over him as they yelled racial slurs and threw things at him.
"All I saw was lights, these blinding lights," he said. "And these blunt objects were being thrown at me, like pieces of chain, a bottle of anti-freeze …."
The teen said he managed to run away and hide from the men, but said he sometimes wishes he had confronted them.
"If I knew what they were gonna do to that lady afterwards, I would have done something," he said, referring to the alleged abduction and sexual assault of a First Nations woman on Dec. 27. Thunder Bay police are investigating that case.
The woman who filed the complaint told police that her alleged attackers yelled racist remarks at her, so police are calling it a "possible hate crime."
But the Thunder Bay Police Service has come under scrutiny for the way it is handling the case.
The victim’s mother is calling for an inquiry into the way police and other institutions in Thunder Bay handle sex crimes against First Nations women.The online hacker group Anonymous criticized the Thunder Bay police in a video that went viral last week.
The teen said it was that video which inspired him to speak to CBC News.
"[Anonymous] wanted people to come forward," he said. "They wanted people to speak and that's what I wanted to do. I just want an alternative choice to policemen. I’m paranoid of police, I don’t trust police. I feel like they’ll turn the case against me."
Police seeking witnesses
CBC News agreed not to identify the teen for his safety.
His story cannot be independently verified, but details are factually similar to what the victim reported to police.
"They started throwing stuff at her, hit her, then pulled her into the van, drove off towards County Park," the teen said, pointing out the spot in the bushes where he hid and watched.
Thunder Bay police are encouraging anyone with information about the crime to speak to them directly.
But police say potential witnesses could speak to a First Nations police service or an aboriginal lawyer if that makes them more comfortable.
The teen said he’s doing his part by talking to the media.
"I'd rather look like a fool for 15 minutes than feel like a fool forever for not saying anything."