Community on edge after alleged homophobic attack

Police won’t comment further unless formal complaint is filed

Published on August 23, 2013
Pattrick Blackburn posted this photo of himself on Facebook earlier this week, after he said he was beaten in a homophobic attack.
— Submitted photo

By Tara Bradbury and Barb Sweet

The Telegram

Police say they’ve been in contact with the victim of an alleged hate crime numerous times with opportunities to file a formal complaint, but he has refused.

The RNC issued a statement to the media Thursday saying it will no longer comment on the alleged incident.

“The RNC will not be providing any further information in relation to this alleged incident or answering any further questions until such time as a formal complaint has been received,” the statement said.

Early this week, St. John’s resident Pattrick Blackburn, 30, took to YouTube and Facebook to tell his story of having allegedly been beaten and robbed, after a homophobic slur was shouted at him. He was walking in the Rawlins Cross area, on his way home in the wee hours of Friday morning, he said, and kept walking after hearing a group of men shout the slur at him. He said he heard footsteps, and the next thing he knew, he was waking up in a hospital bed.

A friend is said to have found Blackburn by the side of the road and put him in his car, where he has said he took photos of Blackburn’s injuries before driving downtown to find a police officer. The officer called an ambulance to take Blackburn to hospital.

Blackburn said in his video he had undergone a blood transfusion and received 18 stitches in his forehead, and a nurse at the hospital told him he had been in danger of “bleeding out” and dying had he arrived 10 minutes later. He posted the photos taken by his friend on Facebook, showing himself covered in blood.

A fundraising account has been set up online for Blackburn, and organizations in St. John’s, Halifax and Ottawa are planning events to raise money for him. The story has made national and international news.

In the past few days, members of the public have pointed out what they say are inconsistencies in Blackburn’s story, accusing him of faking the attack and asking why he has not reported the incident to police. Blackburn, a makeup artist and fitness instructor, told The Telegram on Wednesday he was scared to leave his house on account of harassment, and added his email account and computer had been hacked. He declined an interview.

Wednesday night, he made an emotional statement on Facebook, thanking his friends for their support and describing his frame of mind.

“I can’t eat anything. I can’t sleep properly. My anxiety levels are so high I constantly feel like I’m going to have a heart attack because I’m left feeling like I did something wrong and I owe someone an apology,” he wrote, adding he was leaving town for a few days to get away from things and relax.

Blackburn said a media report saying he hadn’t spoken to police was untrue.

“I have spoken to the police and there will be a statement and a on going (sic) investigation,” he wrote. “The ball will be rolled. I owe it to you guys, myself and humanity itself. But I’m in no mental capacity right now to do so.”

While the RNC would not comment Thursday on police procedure when it comes to dealing with seriously injured assault victims, a spokeswoman for Eastern Health — noting she could not discuss the particular incident because of patient confidentiality and privacy rules — said unless a patient requests otherwise, Eastern Health employees will not report an incident of trauma to the police. It isn’t mandatory to report any type of injury of patients presenting in an emergency department, she said.

Noah Davis-Power, president of St. John’s Pride Inc., said the alleged gay-bashing incident has shaken the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and needs to be investigated.

“People are afraid to go out,” he told The Telegram.

He said he’s hoping the police will address the LGBT community about its fear and safety concerns, as well as the possibility of a hate crime being committed.


Related opinion piece by Barb Sweet can be read here