Hate Crime?

Gay man savagely beaten by a neighbor for alerting police to domestic dispute

Stephen Wentzell

A gay man in Halifax, Canada has gone public with evidence of violent harassment by a neighbor. Stephen Wentzell, 23, alleges that he endured homophobic slurs and a beating after alerting police to a domestic dispute involving a neighbor. Wentzell also alleges that police have done nothing to protect him from the harassment.

The saga began August 31, when Wentzell overheard a neighbor–whose name has not been released to the public–beating his wife. Wentzell alerted police to the disturbance, though claims law enforcement did little to penalize the neighbor for his actions. No criminal charges were filed in the incident.

Two weeks later, the same neighbor approached Wentzell in a violent fury.

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“He just drunkenly stumbled up those steps, and next thing you know it was just closed fists left and right to my temples,” Wentzell said. Though reeling from the attack, Wentzell managed to activate the record function on his phone, which created documentation of the altercation.

“Call the cops you f*cking fa*got. You do it to me again, I will f*ck you up,” the neighbor says as Wentzell screams for help. Wentzell further explains that the neighbor punched him in the face until he collapsed, at which point the neighbor began kicking him in the face. Wentzell suffered a concussion in the attack.

The 57-year-old neighbor now faces charges of assault, uttering threats and intimidation, but has been released from custody. Wentzell now says he fears for his safety with his attacker living next door.

“It’s just really uncomfortable know that there’s somebody who can hang out in the back yard with their dog, but I can’t have company over without worrying,” Wentzell told Global News.

Police in Halifax have released a statement following public outcry over the Wentzell attack. “It is important to remember that the police do not have the ability or authority to evict residents from their homes in these circumstances,” Halifax Regional Police spokesperson John MacLeod in the statement.“Having said that, we have continued to maintain contact to ensure the victim is fully aware of what would constitute breaching those conditions, and what steps are involved to report such information. We appreciate the public’s concern in this matter, and we want to assure everyone that our investigators continue to monitor and respond as appropriate, and we will continue to bring forward any new information that comes to light in this matter as part of our consultations with the Crown.”

Wentzell, for his part, has also requested that law enforcement treat his attack as a hate crime. “I don’t have much faith that they’ll follow through with it,” he admits. “But I’m going to keep advocating for it anyway. For young folks who saw that and now they think they should not come out of the closet…it’s the queer community who have supported me through this.”