A 45-year-old homeless man is in hospital in Nanaimo with potentially life-threatening injuries after being run over and pepper sprayed in an attack police believe was targeted.
Nanaimo RCMP have spoken to several people who witnessed part of the attack around 9:30 p.m. Saturday on Victoria Avenue near 102nd Street. They described seeing a small, black car with several occupants approach a man pushing a shopping cart along Victoria Avenue.
The people in the vehicle and the man exchanged words, and then witnesses heard a thud, said Const. Gary O’Brien of Nanaimo RCMP. The driver is believed to have sped up and run over the man, knocking him to the ground, he said.
Witnesses then saw someone get out of the car and pepper spray the man as he lay on the ground, before the driver sped off, O’Brien said.
Based on witness accounts, police believe the man was attacked because he is homeless.
“This incident is extremely troubling as it appears from all accounts the victim was targeted for being a marginalized person,” O’Brien said. “Our priority is to find out who is responsible and to ensure this does not happen again.”
The man was transported to hospital by ambulance, where he is awaiting surgery, O’Brien said. “He’s in bad shape.”
Police have responded to similar incidents in which people have been beaten in homeless encampments, or empty tents have been run over by vehicles, “but to the extent of this violence, we’ve never seen that,” O’Brien said.
He said police have launched an aggressive investigation into the attack, with officers canvassing the area and collecting securtiy video. Police closed the scene for several hours while investigators collected forensic evidence.
Witnesses were unable to record a licence plate of the vehicle involved. They described the vehicle as a small, black car, possibly a GMC model, with several people inside.
Anyone with information about the attack is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 and quote file #2021-25532.