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This article was published 24/1/2018 (578 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A mere 30 minutes before Brian Bowman announced new measures to bolster "downtown safety and pride" a vicious assault was underway just a few steps from where the mayor would hold his press conference.
Captured by surveillance cameras in the bus shelter fronting Portage Place Tuesday morning, the attack on a 17-year-old boy from India — studying in Canada for only a month — was shocking in both its ruthlessness and randomness.
While Bowman had no knowledge of the assault as he spoke, the incident not only made the case for his new safety initiative, but also added to the safety concerns surrounding the downtown mall.
"It was a vicious, completely unprovoked assault by a person unknown to the victim," Const. Tammy Skrabek said on Wednesday as Winnipeg police asked for the public's help in finding the suspect. "We need to get this person identified.
"That person is more dangerous than a person dealing drugs. This person is who the public should be worried about."
The incident was one of almost 90 in the last month — or roughly three per day — which have brought police to the downtown mall for calls including "intoxicated people, shoplifters, disturbances, robberies, weapons, fights, assaults," Skrabek said.
"In addition, officers have assigned themselves to this location approximately 51 times during the same time period to do a walk-through or special attention."
The male victim, who came to Canada to go to university, was taken to hospital for multiple facial injuries and released. The victim will need further medical treatment, Skrabek said.
The assault occurred at about 10:30 a.m.
Just half an hour later, inside the former HMV store across from the Edmonton Street entrance where the bus shelter is located, Bowman announced the city was giving $30,000 apiece to the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, the West End BIZ, and the Exchange District BIZ so they would increase the safe walk and foot-patrol programs they operate.
He also announced funding of $13,359 to provide the Bear Clan Patrol with various items including radios, cellphones and an automated external defibrillator.
"Despite the progress our city has made in reducing crime, public safety remains a concern for many residents," Bowman said at the announcement.
"Residents in our city still consider our downtown more unsafe than other parts of the city and we need to continue working to address the safety concerns many of our residents have."
Jeremy Davis, the mayor's spokesman, said on Wednesday they only learned about the assault after Tuesday's announcement.
"The safety patrols provide a critical link between residents and the police, and can also be an invaluable resource in providing conflict-resolution support. Each patrol is uniquely structured according to the needs of the neighbourhood," Davis said in a statement on Bowman's behalf.
"The funding announced (Tuesday) is targeted to enhance existing safety initiatives we know have had a positive impact on safety and provide tangible results to residents. Above all, they provide a reassuring presence for many residents and visitors to our downtown."
Few people waiting in the bus shelter were willing to speak with a reporter, but one woman — who didn't want her name used — waiting for a bus with a child admitted the incident will cause her to increase her vigilance when downtown.
"Women are always trying to be really aware of our surroundings so this shows me I will have to be extra cautious," she said.
"I go to university on the bus, so it isn't like I can't be here."
Stefano Grande, CEO of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, said he's glad the victim wasn't hurt even worse.
Grande said the assault points out the need for more Downtown Watch patrols, more cadets and more police foot patrols.
"The Watch came immediately and they called the Winnipeg Police Service. It demonstrates the partnership we have," he said, noting more patrols won't eradicate crime from the downtown, but it would help reduce it.
"Troubling incidents like this happen from time to time... it's tragic when something like this happens."
The video released by police to the public shows the attacker waiting until everyone else has left the bus shelter, and the victim, his facial features blurred, is alone with him. The attacker also waited until there was no one outside the window on the sidewalk to witness anything, Skrabek pointed out.
The video abruptly stops just when the attacker leaps forward and can be seen about to sucker punch the victim at the beginning of the assault.
"The general public does not need to see this violence. The victim was punched, kicked and knocked to the ground," Skrabek said, adding the assault continued until the victim couldn't move.
Anyone with information is asked to call investigators at 204-986-6222 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477).
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
Updated on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 at 12:29 PM CST: Replaces video, adds more images.
5:29 PM: updates photos
January 25, 2018 at 8:58 AM: Corrects typo