Police are investigating after a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community was allegedly targeted in a homophobic attack in Toronto over the weekend.
However, late Wednesday night, the Ottawa Redblacks said it was suspending a lineman amid allegations he may have been connected to the incident.
Online posts have detailed the incident, describing it as occurring late Saturday on the Toronto Islands.
According to a GoFundMe set up for David Gomez, the incident happened between 11:15 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. when Gomez was returning home from Hanlan’s Point.
“In short, David and a friend found themselves in danger when they were outnumbered by a group of folks (approx 5+) shouting and hurling homophobic slurs at them until things reached a boiling point, which compelled the attackers to become violent, leaving David incapacitated and in need of serious medical attention,” the GoFundMe said.
Gomez reportedly was left unconscious, with a concussion and several broken bones.
The post said Gomez is still recovering and the fundraiser was set up to help with therapy, legal fees, school fees and any other medical bills.
Toronto Mayor John Tory issued a statement on the incident Wednesday afternoon saying he was “very disturbed at the series of events we are seeing close at hand in recent weeks which feature acts of hatred and hate speech.”
“The assault of an resident is unacceptable and so too is the use of homophobic language towards any resident or any hate motivated violence,” he continued. “There is absolutely no place for homophobia in our city.”
Toronto police issued a news release Wednesday afternoon which provided more insight on the incident.
Officers said a 24-year-old man and 27-year-old woman were walking to the ferry docks near Hanlan’s Point around 11:30 p.m. Saturday when they “became involved in a disagreement with a group of people.”
Police said a man from the group made homophobic comments towards the victims and a woman grabbed one of the victims. Two men from the group then punched and kicked the 24-year-old, leaving him with “significant injuries,” police said.
Officers said the Toronto police Hate Crime Unit has been notified and is assisting investigators.
“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,” the news release said.
“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.”
Pride Toronto released a statement on Twitter after the assault.
“These kinds of attacks highlight why it is important that Pride Toronto brings awareness of homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, in our community,” the statement read in part.
“It is heartbreaking to hear this happened during Pride Month — an attack on one is an attack on all.”
Social media posts alleged an Ottawa Redblacks CFL player was involved in the incident.
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In an update Wednesday night, the team issued a statement saying it was suspending defensive lineman Chris Larsen.
“Late last night, we were made aware of social media allegations of an assault by a group of individuals that included Chris Larsen and immediately commenced an investigation which is ongoing,” said Mark Goudie, CEO of the REDBLACKS’ parent company, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG). “Today we were advised that an investigation by the Toronto Police is underway.”
Goudie went on to say that diversity and inclusion are central to the organization’s values.
“We will try our best to use our platform to help make acts of hate and violence, including homophobia, stop,” he continued.
The team said it was “particularly sorry for the trauma caused to the 2SLGBTQ+ community.”
Police described one of the suspects as a 25- to 32-year-old man with a muscular build and dreadlocks who is six-foot-four and 220 pounds. Police said he had a bicycle with him.
The second suspect was described as a man with a thin build who possibly had dreadlocks. Police said he is five-foot-six.
A third suspect was described as a 22- to 28-year-old woman who has long blond hair and is five-foot-five and 180 pounds.
Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact police at 416-808-5200 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477.
Global News requested to speak with Gomez, but a friend said he is not currently doing any more interviews with media.