Police in Vancouver say the suspect in a “disturbing” racist incident – in which two Asian women wearing face masks were verbally abused before a third woman who came to their defence was injured – died of an apparent drug overdose a few days after the assault.
The development was announced on Wednesday, one day after Metro Vancouver Transit Police had asked the public for help in identifying the suspect in the April 15 incident.
“The suspect was a 48-year-old man from Vancouver with no fixed address who was well known to police,” said Constable Mike Yake.
“We learned that the suspect had passed away from an apparent drug overdose approximately one week after this incident.”
Yake thanked the media and the public for their help identifying the man believed to have been involved in what he called a “disturbing assault”.
On April 15, a man boarded a bus in downtown Vancouver before directing his attention to two Asian women wearing face masks.
“Go back to your country; that’s where it all started,” he allegedly told the pair, police said. When a third woman, described by police as a Good Samaritan, came to the pair’s defence, the man kicked her, wrestled her to the floor of the bus and ripped out a clump of her hair.
A communications adviser with the transit police clarified Yake’s statement about the suspect’s death by saying that “‘well known to police’ indicates that an individual has had multiple documented contacts with police agencies in Canada. It does not necessarily mean that he is someone that police officers are able to identify on sight.”
The Vancouver Police Department said recently that there had been 20 anti-Asian hate crimes reported this year, compared with 12 in all of 2019. Sixteen of this year’s reports were made in March or April.
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