Ottawa Redblacks suspend Chris Larsen amid investigation into possibly hate-motivated beating
Investigators say 24-year-old man was beaten and left with 'significant injuries'
The Ottawa Redblacks have suspended defensive lineman Chris Larsen amid an investigation into an alleged hate-motivated beating at the ferry docks on Toronto Island over the weekend that police say left a member of the city's LGBTQ community with "significant injuries."
Toronto police, including officers from the force's hate crime unit, are now investigating the reported assault near Hanlan's Point on Saturday night. The alleged assault happened during Pride month and near a beach that is considered LGBTQ-friendly.
According to a police news release, a 24-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman were walking to the ferry docks when they "became involved in a disagreement with a group of people."
That's when, police say, a man from that second group of people made homophobic comments toward the victims.
A woman from the second group grabbed one of the pair, police say. Then, two men from the group punched and kicked the 24-year-old man, leaving him with "significant injuries."
David Gomez identified himself as the victim when contacted by CBC News. He sent along photos of his injuries, but declined an on-camera interview request.
A crowdfunding campaign set up for Gomez, which had raised almost $35,000 by Wednesday evening, states he was knocked unconscious, and suffered a broken nose, cheekbone and orbital bone, as well as an injury to his hip and a concussion.
The crowdfunding page describes him as "a precious and loved member of our Queer community."
In the days after the assault was reported, social media posts identified a member of the CFL's Ottawa Redblacks as being one of the people allegedly responsible for the attack. The Redblacks announced Wednesday evening that Larsen had been suspended from the team, pending an ongoing investigation.
The Ottawa REDBLACKS announced today that they have suspended defensive lineman Chris Larsen.<br><br>Full Statement: <a href="https://t.co/Ov1tvjb1GD">https://t.co/Ov1tvjb1GD</a> <a href="https://t.co/z9757qlZTh">pic.twitter.com/z9757qlZTh</a>—@REDBLACKS
Mark Goudie, CEO of the Redblacks' parent company, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, said in a statement that he does not know "all of the specifics of the incident," but said the organization is building a team that "reflects the values of our community.
"Diversity and inclusion are central to our organizational values and we will try our best to use our platform to help make acts of hate and violence, including homophobia, stop," Goudie said. "We recognize there are larger systemic issues that plague our society, and as an organization, we know that we can play a role in making our community a more tolerant, respectful, educated and inclusive place."
Larsen was drafted in 2019 but hasn't appeared in a game with the team.
The CFL also issued a statement Wednesday evening, saying it also takes the allegations "very seriously" and "look[s] forward to the outcome.
"We want to reaffirm our values: We condemn homophobia, violence and hate. We support inclusivity and diversity," the statement said in part. "More needs to be done and we will continue to stand with the LGBTQ2S+ community."
Statement from the CFL <a href="https://t.co/hA3Gzy31yb">pic.twitter.com/hA3Gzy31yb</a>—@CFL
Toronto police say the force's hate crime unit has been notified and is assisting officers from 52 Division with the investigation.
"This remains an active investigation and extensive inquiries are being carried out including scouring for video, recovering evidence and speaking to witnesses to establish the motive," police said in a statement.
"The Toronto Police Service understands that incidents of this nature cause concern in LGBTQ2S+ communities. We want to assure everyone that our investigators are working hard to determine if this was a hate crime and identify the suspects involved. Any type of hate crime will not be tolerated."
Police say they will provide updates "as soon as possible" as the investigation progresses.
Pride Toronto also issued a statement Wednesday, saying that these kinds of attacks highlight why it is important for the organization to bring awareness to homophobia, transphobia and biphobia in the city.
"It is heartbreaking to hear this happened during Pride Month — an attack on one is an attack on all," the group said. "Everyone, please, be safe and take care of yourself and those around you."
Police are asking anyone with video of the incident or information about what happened to contact investigators or Crime Stoppers.
With files from Adam Carter