‘It’s horrible’: Nanaimo man with developmental disabilities bear sprayed in attack

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Nanaimo RCMP and the victim’s family are asking for your help in identifying a suspect accused of a random attack on a vulnerable person.

The man with developmental difficulties was walking his dog when someone bear sprayed him in the face. The impact on him, his family says, has been catastrophic.

Sherry Smart is walking her brother’s dog near Brannen Lake in Nanaimo. It’s exactly what her brother, who has developmental disabilities, was doing last week when he was suddenly bear sprayed in the face.

“Completely unprovoked, unnecessary and frightening. My brother was very frightened,” said Smart.

It happened shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday. Smart’s 54-year-old brother was walking by the roundabout where Big Bear Ridge meets Godfrey Road when the attack happened.

“He did notice that someone was following him but he didn’t at first pay much attention to it, and then he started to feel a little uneasy and he looked and the person was walking on the other side of the street,” said Smart. “Then the person came running up to him and sprayed him with bear spray.”

Neighbours came out and helped the man, who doesn’t own a cell phone, when they heard him yelling. Police and BC Ambulance attended and the victim was treated on scene before going to the hospital to rinse his eyes out some more.

“We canvassed the area for CCTV cameras. We looked for any witnesses that could verify the incident, we couldn’t find anybody,” said Reserve Const. Gary O’Brien with Nanaimo RCMP.

“We have no reason not to believe him. We believe it happened. We just don’t have any witnesses to move forward,” he said.

Smart says the incident has robbed her brother of the little independence he enjoyed and she’s hoping someone will come forward with information about who’s responsible.

“My mom lives close by and he would walk to my mom’s or walk home from my mom’s for a visit and he’s just too frightened to do that by himself now, and he’s too frightened to bring his dog out for a walk by himself now. It’s horrible,” said Smart.

Nanaimo RCMP confirm the attack by all accounts was random and say bear spray incidents like this one are on the rise.

“It is is happening more. It’s not uncommon for our members to go to a situation where somebody has been bear sprayed, whether it’s unprovoked or it was brought out during an altercation,” said O’Brien.

The victim’s family doesn’t want to name him or have him speak on camera out of concerns for his safety.

The suspect is described as a late teen or young man, wearing a dark hoody.

RELATED: Less than a year ago Nanaimo RCMP said a thief discharged bear spray in a 7-Eleven

Kendall Hanson

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