Victoria police investigate homophobic ‘hate crime’ in runup to Pride Week

Experiences leave nightclub owner worrying about state of acceptance

An incident Sunday night in which empty bullet shell casings were thrown at patrons outside a gay nightclub in Victoria has cast a shadow on preparations for Pride Week, says the club spokesperson.

“I’m getting a little bit worried about the safety of the people,” said Attila Bassett with the Paparazzi Nightclub. “Throwing gun shells at people, that’s terrible.”

The business is trying to prepare for Pride Week festivities, June 30 to July 8, “but it gets more and more difficult because you keep worrying what’s going to happen next,” he said.

The incident happened just over a week after Bassett was the target of homophobic comments posted online, which he reported to police.

“It seems like we’re being pushed back 100 years,” he added. “But I know that the community is strong and they’re going to stand behind (Pride Week).”

Victoria police are seeking the public’s help in identifying a male suspect who allegedly made homophobic comments to a group of people outside the club, before empty shell casings were hurled at their feet, around 8 p.m.

“It was clearly an identified threat, clearly focusing toward the (lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender) community, so therefore it is classified as a hate crime,” said Victoria police Staff Sgt. Darren Laur.

Since then, police have been canvassing the area for video surveillance.

“One of the challenges that we have is that the two witnesses involved give two different descriptions (of the suspect),” said Laur. “So it makes it more challenging for us, but I can tell you in 27 years of policing, I have never seen an incident like that take place.”

The only common description for the suspect is that he is a white male in his 20s. Anyone with information on this incident is asked to call Victoria police at 250-995-7444, or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

emccracken@vicnews.com