On December 22nd, two senior neighbourhood women witnessed a violent attack after 4 PM on Front Street in front of the Oliver & Bonacini restaurant (33 Front St. East).
A woman walking ahead of them on Front St. was suddenly grabbed around the neck by a man who then punched her violently in the face.
As she crumpled to the sidewalk bleeding, in obvious pain & distress, he started to step away, then decided to turn back and kicked her fully in the face.
My two neighbour friends shouted at him to leave her alone and he advanced on them, asking if they were also ‘wanted a beating’.
They were relieved that he decided to turn on his heels and walk away as they had run into the fenced-in portion of the Oliver & Bonacini restaurant patio and realized that they were trapped if he continued to advance towards them.
Meanwhile a driver coming up Front St. saw what happened and jumped out of his car to assist the three women.
He kept an eye on what direction the man headed (South on Yonge St.) and called 911 for the police and ambulance to attend, eventually helping to direct them to make a successful arrest while my friends and the lady, bleeding profusely, were helped into the O & B restaurant for refuge.
My senior friend was then directed to call the woman’s husband, who arrived just after she was loaded into the ambulance.
A neighbour who heard the sirens, saw the police cars & ambulance arrive at the scene, looked out of his window, recognized the 2 women being interviewed by police and rushed out to help. Eventually, the policeman finished his interview with my neighbour friend, after they pointed out the bloody evidence on the sidewalk, and our neighbour escorted the two women home, badly shaken by what happened.
Sadly, the two women (both age 75) who witnessed this assault thought afterwards that if not for the unfortunate woman walking ahead of them, they would have been the ones attacked. They learned that this man was staying at the Novotel on the Esplanade from the police officer. Did the City place this man into Novotel? Was this the beginning of yet another homeless respite, also owned by the Silver Group, which has already converted their Victoria Hotel, Strathcona and Bond Place hotels into respites, paid for by the City?* The man had also attacked 2 other people earlier that day and now it took three police officers great effort to subdue him, to force him into a squad car.
Women pedestrians wouldn’t stand a chance against this irrational, mentally ill man!
My neighbour friend is still feeling shaky and can clearly remember his electric, menacing eyes and the hateful glare that he leveled at them.
Do we now have to worry about every stranger who approaches us?? My friend, in her 70’s, doesn’t want to move out of the downtown core (yet).
There are people staying in respites who walk amongst us, who clearly need mental health intervention. When will the City step up to do that effectively?
*Since the article was published, the City of Toronto has confirmed that the Novotel is not being currently used as a respite.