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Nanaimo senior punched after asking group on stairs to move

The attack happened about 2:45 p.m. Nov. 20 on the stairs leading to the museum, when volunteer Pat Murphy noticed two women with shopping bags trying to walk up.
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The attack happened about 2:45 p.m. Nov. 20.

An 82-year-old volunteer with the Vancouver Island Military Museum in Nanaimo says he was punched in the face and spat on when he asked a group of people to clear a public stairwell last weekend.

The attack happened about 2:45 p.m. Nov. 20 on the stairs leading to the museum, when volunteer Pat Murphy noticed two women with shopping bags trying to walk up.

When Murphy asked the group of about 10 people to give the women some room, he was punched in the left side of his face. He said he noticed another member of the group was ­holding a knife.

Murphy said he was also spat on by someone who had a ­mouthful of liquor or coffee.

“I couldn’t tell which.”

He said he was momentarily stunned when he was hit, but quickly responded with some punches of his own.

A suspect was last seen ­running north on Front Street.

“The punch didn’t bother me a bit,” Murphy said from the museum on Thursday. “I’m in pretty good shape for an old guy.”

He declined medical treatment after the attack.

Police responded after a security guard who saw the incident called 911. They were unable to locate the suspect, but Murphy said the case is in good hands.

“I have every confidence in the local RCMP.”

He said problems in the downtown area have been building for five or six years, and he told police that the stairs leading from Front Street to the museum have been a particular issue.

He is constantly having to ask the people that frequent the stairs to clean up after themselves, Murphy said.

Earlier on the day he was assaulted, he said he had a good talk with a different group on the steps. Murphy said he gave the handful of men some brooms and they took it upon themselves to sweep up the trash there and put it in garbage cans.

The suspect in the assault is described as white, 20 to 25, five-foot-11 and very thin, with dark hair, some facial hair and a prominent chin.

He was wearing a baseball cap and a grey hoodie with a black jacket over it.

Nanaimo RCMP Const. Gary O’Brien called the incident troubling and said the detachment is treating it as a priority. Call the RCMP at 250-754-2345 with any information.

jbell@timescolonist.com