Ottawa Redblacks suspend Chris Larsen amid investigation into possibly hate-motivated beating

The Ottawa Redblacks say they have suspended defensive lineman Chris Larsen amid an investigation into an alleged beating at the ferry docks on Toronto Island over the weekend.

“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. Today we were advised that an investigation by the Toronto Police is underway,” Mark Goudie, CEO of the Redblacks’ parent company, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, said in a statement.  

Larsen was drafted in 2019 but hasn’t appeared in a game with the team.

Toronto police, including the force’s hate crime unit, are investigating after a man was reportedly beaten at the ferry docks on Toronto Island near Hanlan’s Point on Saturday night.

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.”

The CFL 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,” it said in part. “More needs to be done and we will continue to stand with the LGBTQ2S+ 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 in the statement. “We are particularly sorry for the trauma caused to the 2SLGBTQ+ community.”

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.

A crowdfunding page set up for Gomez says he sustained several injuries in the attack. (Submitted by David Gomez)

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.

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