A CFL player and his lawyer says he has been cleared as a suspect in an alleged homophobic that took place on the Toronto Islands in early June.
Ottawa Redblacks lineman Chris Larsen told Global News he met with Toronto police on Tuesday and his lawyer said he has been cleared as a suspect after his name came up in connection with the June 5 incident after it began making the rounds on social media. The Ottawa Redblacks suspended Larsen in wake of the incident.
“Well, he’s no longer a suspect and we’re now going to get ahold of the CFL and coaches there and explain to them that he’s not a person of interest,” said Larsen’s lawyer Calvin Barry on Tuesday. “At most, he’ll may be a witness when they get the people that did do what occurred.”
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.
Police said a 24-year-old man and 27-year-old woman were walking to the ferry docks near Hanlan’s Point 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.
Gomez reportedly was left unconscious, with a concussion and several broken bones.
Investigators would not confirm to Global News whether Larsen was ever a suspect and said the investigation remains ongoing. Police said no suspects were ever named.
“We would not speculate on those alleged to be involved, or not involved, until charges have been laid and investigators have established the full facts with evidence to support it.”
In an update on Monday, investigators said they were looking for two women, described as being in their 20s with brown hair who may have been witnesses to the incident. Police said the women are not in any trouble and are not believed to have been connected to anyone involved in the altercation.
Barry said private investigators working on his behalf were told by police that Larsen was no longer a suspect.
Larsen’s name began to circulate on social media after a picture of a group of the alleged suspects was shared.
The defensive lineman told Global News on Tuesday that he contacted Barry and came to the police station voluntarily to cooperate with the investigation. Larsen said he told investigators he would help them with anything as it would help him to clear his name.
The 25-year-old, who was supposed to start his first year with the Redblacks in the upcoming season told Global News the whole situation has been a “bad dream.”
“I broke down. Like I said it was like a bad dream. I really didn’t know how to react. I was kind of all over the place and yeah I was just breaking down,” Larsen said, adding he had an idea the team might take action when he saw his name all over social media.
When contacted by Global News, the Redblacks organization said, “There has been no change” to Larsen’s status.
Larsen said he was on the Island that day to celebrate a friend’s birthday, who he said is queer. He said he’s not homophobic and that he wants to be an ally to everyone.
“I denounce any sort of hate crime to any group, not just marginalized groups, anyone at all. And I’m just ready to move on and you know be an ally to all of these groups,” he said.
“Ever since I was little, I was always a little bit bigger than the other kids and my parents told me you know you can’t just be a bully. You have to stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves,” he said. “That lives with me to this day — I’ve never been someone to start altercations with people.”
He said he feels terrible for Gomez and called the incident tragic. “I don’t have any hate in my heart towards that person at all for any reason.”
Global News reached out to Gomez for comment but had not heard back yet prior to publication.
Having cooperated with police and being cleared in the investigation is a weight off his and his family’s shoulders, Larsen said.
As for social media, he said it’s not on “anyone’s side.”
“Social media is just there and it can e used for you for good or it could be used against you,” Larsen said, adding he’s more worried about being exonerated on social media even if he has been by police.
As for his plans now, Larsen said he plans to “lay low and get ready for the upcoming season.”
—With files from Gabby Rodrigues