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Canadian footballer suspended amid investigation into violent homophobic attack

Larsen is being investigated after a violent attack on gay man David Gomez (pictured top right) in Toronto.

2021-06-14

Words: Alastair James; pictures: GoFundMe

An American football player has been suspended after allegations he led an assault of a gay man in Toronto Island on 5 June, as reported by the Toronto Sun.

David Gomez, 24, – the victim – was hospitalised by the assault and friends report that he has had to have surgery as a result.

Chris Larsen, 25, of the Ottawa Redblacks, has been identified as a suspect and suspended from his team while investigations are ongoing.

“I was dragged around, kicked and punched in the face”

Chris Larsen, Ottawa Redblacks (Photo: Ottawa Redblacks)

The assault took place in Hanlan’s Point – considered a “gay enclave” in the Canadian city - when Gomez and a friend were walking back from the beach.

Gomez has said the pair found themselves had homophobic slurs shouted at them before violently attacking them. One woman is said to have grabbed Gomez while two other men beat him.

Victim: David Gomez (Image: GoFundMe)

In a social media update, as reported by the Toronto Sun, Gomez said, “I was knocked unconscious and beat nearly to death. I was dragged around, kicked, and punched in the face. I now have a broken nose with a shattered face.”

Gomez’s injuries are included a broken nose, cheekbone, orbital bone, hip bone, and a concussion.

A crowdfunding page to pay for Gomez’s medical and legal costs has so far raised more than $48,000. The page organised by Gomez’s friend Cianan Liburd says it’s “maddening” this took place during Pride Month adding, “We still have to watch our backs in areas like Hanlan's that have served as an enclave and safe haven for the queer community for as long as some of us can remember.”

“Diversity and inclusion are central to our organizational values”

Larsen was identified as a suspect via social media and was suspended by the Ottawa Redblacks after police confirmed his status as a suspect.  

In a statement posted online on Wednesday (9 June) the CEO of the team’s parent company Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) Mark Goudie said, “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 added, “We are particularly sorry for the trauma caused to the 2SLGBTQ+ community” referring to the two-spirit community. The Canadian Football League has also released a statement condemning violence and homophobia.

Larsen was drafted in the 2019 CFL draft but has yet to appear in a game for the Redblacks.

Toronto Police has confirmed it is investigating the incident as a hate crime and aggravated assault. It has confirmed they are searching for two men and a woman in connection with the incident. In a statement released on Wednesday (9 June) the police said, "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."

They also released details of the suspects they were looking for: "The first suspect is described as a man, black , 25-32 years old, 6’4”, 220 lbs, muscular build, with dreadlocks and had a bicycle with him. The second suspect is described as a man, white, thin build, 5’ 6”, and possibly had dreadlocks. The third suspect is described as a woman, white, 22-28 years old, 5’5”, 180 lbs, with long blonde hair."