Police in Thunder Bay, Ont. say they’re consulting with the Crown over whether evidence gathered so far in the case of an Indigenous woman hospitalized by a thrown trailer hitch points to a hate-related assault.
Thunder Bay police have charged Brayden Bushby, 18, with aggravated assault in connection with the Jan. 29 incident. According to police, Bushby turned himself in on Saturday.
Barbara Kentner, 34, required surgery after being hit in the stomach by the trailer hitch shortly after 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, according to Kentner’s sister, Melissa Kentner, who witnessed the incident.
In a written release issued Monday afternoon, police said Bushby appeared in court Sunday morning. His next date is scheduled for Feb. 7.
Police confirmed that four individuals — three men and one woman, all aged 18 and 19 — were in the vehicle from which the trailer hitch was reportedly thrown. All four were interviewed by police. As of Monday afternoon, only Bushby was reported to have been charged.
Police still investigating ‘disturbing’ incident
Investigators are still looking into whether the incident — that police called “disturbing,” on Monday — constitutes a hate-related offence.
Melissa Kentner, as well as Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Anna-Betty Achneepineskum, have called it a hate crime.
Police said on Monday that further investigation as well as consultations with the prosecution are exploring whether the victim’s race was a mitigating factor in the incident. If anyone is convicted in relation to the attack, police said that determination could factor into a sentencing.
The aggravated assault charge has not been proven in court.
The force is “aware of the reporting by members of the Aboriginal community that they have been victim to objects being thrown at them,” by people in passing vehicles, Monday’s release said, adding that police are encouraging anyone who is a victim to report the incident.
A number of First Nations people have said that it’s common in Thunder Bay for Indigenous people to be targeted by objects thrown from passing vehicles.
“This recently reported incident is a good example of members of the community stepping up and doing the right thing to provide information and help an investigation move forward,” the police’s statement added.