University students from the Indian community and a Winnipeg home builder are hoping a fundraising drive will convince a 17-year-old international student who was recently attacked and beaten while waiting in a downtown Transit bus shelter to stay in the city.
Dhruv Patel, president of the Indian Students' Association at the University of Manitoba, and Tim Comack, vice-president of Ventura Land Company Inc., have set up a GoFundMe page to help the teen student, who had moved to Winnipeg from India just weeks before the assault that sent him to hospital with head injuries.
Patel said the fundraiser's goal is $5,000, but "the more we can get, the better."
"We want to make him feel he's not alone," he said Friday. "And we also hope to raise some for our association, so we can help others when they come here. People have to be aware of who we are and who we help."
Patel said the teen has health insurance, but had no coverage for ambulance transportation, so money raised will also be used to pay that bill.
Patel said he met with the teenager for the first time earlier this week. He said the U of M student told him he's fine with the fundraiser, but he wishes to remain anonymous and doesn't want to be interviewed by the media.
"He is very shy and withdrawn," Patel said. "He is an introvert."
Winnipeggers reacted in shock after police released a video to the public showing the beginning of a vicious assault on the teen inside the bus shelter on Portage Avenue in front of Portage Place shopping centre on Jan. 23.
The video shows a lone male suspect waiting until everyone else had left the shelter. Without warning, the suspect wheels around and strikes the teen student in the face with his fist. Police halted the video footage at that point, saying the beating was too brutal to be shown.
On Jan. 24, Winnipeg police arrested Joshua Zachary Snakeskin, 26, of Alberta.
Winnipeg police spokeswoman Const. Tammy Skrabek said last week the suspect was arrested in a stolen vehicle. Police also said Snakeskin had recently been released from Stony Mountain Institution, north of Winnipeg, after serving 16 months for dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and possessing a weapon.
Police said at the time of the assault the injured student had an uncle and aunt in Winnipeg, but Patel said they are not relatives, but family friends.
Comack said he hasn't met the student, but he had his condition described to him.
"He was beaten," Comack said Friday. "His eyes are bloodied red.
"He was kicked in the face a number of times. His body, too. This was a prison-grade beating. And he was knocked out."
Comack said the teen can't work in his condition and was only where he was, waiting for the bus, because he had applied for a Social Insurance Number at the Service Canada outlet inside Portage Place minutes before.
The GoFundMe page states: "We have been told money is tight for him and his biggest concern is that he can’t work in the condition he is in.
"This money will be used to help a struggling student reduce his financial burdens for food, school and getting around Winnipeg. He has enough to deal with from the terrible injuries he has sustained."
Comack said he wanted to help the teen, and show him such incidents are not what Winnipeg is about.
"We just want to show him Winnipeg cares and it is not a bad place," he said. "We want him to feel he is part of this community.
"This was like lightning striking."
By Friday afternoon, $3,940 of the $5,000 goal had been raised.
— with files from Alexandra Paul
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 Friday, February 2, 2018 at 7:23 PM CST: Updated