Man ‘without supervision’ when child attacked in park: witness

No caregivers were in sight when a man with special needs pushed a young boy to the ground this week in Kildonan Park and began hitting him on the back, according to a witness.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/07/2022 (216 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

No caregivers were in sight when a man with special needs pushed a young boy to the ground this week in Kildonan Park and began hitting him on the back, according to a witness.

The boy was standing with other children and staff from a summer day camp, as they prepared to go swimming in a public pool, when he was randomly assaulted Monday morning.

Ron Gratton was driving through the park with his wife when he noticed the man on a path.

“He was walking toward the group (of children) and he pushed this little kid, got down on his knees and started pounding on the (child’s) back with both hands,” said Gratton. “People appeared to be in shock. Nobody moved for two to three seconds.

“Someone yelled at (the man) and he got up and walked away.”

“He was walking toward the group (of children) and he pushed this little kid, got down on his knees and started pounding on the (child’s) back with both hands.” – Ron Gratton, witness

The boy, who appeared to be about six years old, was hit about five times before the man left “like nothing happened,” Gratton told the Free Press.

The children were with Discovery Day Camp, which is run by Centerpoint Church in East Kildonan, on the first day of its summer programming.

Camp director Mark Werner previously told the Free Press a roughly 18-year-old man, who has low-functioning autism and the mental capacity of a child, jumped on the boy.

The man “didn’t know what he is doing” and will not face charges, said Werner.

A letter informed parents an unknown adult male, who was “away” from his caregivers, went into the middle of the group and “pushed and became physically violent” with a child.

“Witnesses took photos and videos of the man and called police,” the letter states.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS A stranger attacked a child at Kildonan Park in front of other kids and staff from the Discovery Day Camp, which is run by Centerpoint Church.

After witnessing the incident, Gratton, who went to the park to walk his dog, said he pulled over to check on the day camp group.

“I asked (a woman) if they called the police, and she asked, ‘Should we?’ I said, ‘Yes,’” he said. “She was holding the kid while he was crying, and trying to comfort him.”

When Gratton called police to give a description of the man, he was informed they were aware of the incident.

Gratton said he did a loop of the area and found the man walking alone.

“There was no caregiver anywhere near him, even when the attack happened,” he said. “My biggest concern is this person was allowed to be walking around on his own without any supervision.

“Whoever’s care this man is in should be looked into. They’re definitely not doing their job.”

“Whoever’s care this man is in should be looked into. They’re definitely not doing their job.” – Ron Gratton, witness

It was unclear who employs the caregivers.

Gratton said he has noticed the man in the park before, and he saw two caregivers with him Thursday morning.

After Monday’s incident, “park patrol” detained the man until police arrived, according to the day camp’s letter to parents.

Paramedics assessed the child, whose parents were informed, and he showed “no signs of physical or emotional trauma,” according to the letter.

After being checked over, the boy went swimming with the rest of the children, Werner said previously.

Later, Gratton contacted the day camp and spoke to Werner, because he was left with questions about protocol and how Monday’s incident was handled.

Werner previously told the Free Press the incident was handled appropriately. He did not want to comment Thursday.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Ron Gratton, who was present when the incident took place, called police to give a description of the man, he was informed they were aware of the incident. Gratton said he did a loop of the area and found the man walking alone.

“We want to assure you that our staff are doing everything possible to keep your kids safe and are following protocols,” the letter states. “We want you to have the information so you can speak to your kids about the incident, and in case any of them are upset and scared because of it.”

Parents were instructed to send an email if they had questions about the incident: “We don’t want parents asking or talking about it at pickup time with children around.”

One parent told the Free Press their child expressed fears of returning to Kildonan Park, after witnessing the man punching and holding down the boy.

The parent had hoped the day camp would provide more detailed information about the incident and hold a discussion with the children who witnessed it to help them understand what they saw and process their emotions.

Gratton’s account raises more questions about safety training for staff, the parent said Thursday.

A Winnipeg police spokeswoman said she did not have information about the incident on hand and would need an incident number to find it.

Gratton said he did not receive an incident number when he called police. The day camp did not disclose the incident number.

chris.kitching@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @chriskitching

Chris Kitching
Reporter

As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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