A series of stabbings in downtown Calgary last month have been deemed hate-motivated by police.
Three people were sprayed with fire extinguishers and stabbed within eight minutes of each other at about 4 a.m. on Dec. 21 in nearby locations in the downtown core.
All of the victims were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition following the attacks. Police said they were able to get descriptions of two offenders thanks to high-quality security camera images from transit property.
Asher Atter, 21, and Jaymes Richardson, 29, were arrested and charged with three counts each of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon — as well as other charges — following a search of a residence in the 900 block of Seventh Avenue S.W. on Dec. 23.
The Calgary Police Service (CPS) said in a release on Dec. 28 that investigators believed the attacks were "done simply to intentionally cause harm to others."
On Wednesday, following a review by its hate crime and extremism team, CPS said the attacks were targeted.
"We believe the victims were attacked because of their socio-economic status," said Acting Sgt. Matt Messenger of the hate crime and extremism team.
"They were targeted because they were experiencing homelessness and other vulnerabilities."
'They deserve to be respected'
According to police, hate-motivated crimes are driven by bias, prejudice or hate that is based on the personal characteristics of the victim.
And although a hate motivation does not result in any additional charges, police said any evidence of it is considered by the courts if a person is found guilty of the connected crime.
"We will not tolerate violence against people experiencing vulnerabilities," said Staff Sgt. Kurt Jacobs of the general investigations unit.
"They are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and acquaintances. They deserve to feel safe, and they deserve to be respected. All citizens have a right to move about our city free from the fear of harm."
If the judge decides during sentencing that hate was a motivation for the offence, it is deemed an aggravating factor that can add to the convicted person's sentence, police said.
Atter and Richardson remain in custody.