Can’t point to mask-wearing as reason behind hotel attack: Winnipeg police

Winnipeg Police are trying to ascertain the identity of the person who stabbed a hotel employee four times — and also, why he did it.

The attack in the wee hours of Wednesday morning happened at the Northern Hotel, in the 800 block of Winnipeg’s Main Street.

Manager Keith Horn says just before 1 a.m., a group of roughly a half-dozen people entered the hotel’s lobby — one of them, a woman who wasn’t wearing a mask.

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“He asked her to put on (a mask) a few times, that didn’t happen, so he told her she had to leave the building,” Horn tells Global News.

“Another customer who wasn’t with her took offence (to that), so he started arguing with the employee. That went back and forth a couple times.”

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Horn says the worker told that man he wouldn’t be serving him, either, then the suspect apologized.

“He went to leave, said something, went to go leave again, came back, turned around the corner and stabbed him four times,” Horn said.

The plexiglass barrier separating customers from employees at the Northern Hotel. Manager Keith Horn says the suspect reached underneath it early Wednesday morning, stabbing one of his employees. Skylar Peters / Global News

Police say the victim was taken to hospital in unstable condition, and the attacker got away.

Finding a motive

Horn believes if the woman who wasn’t complying with the mask-wearing rule wasn’t there, the stabbing never would have happened.

“We don’t see the violence (often), but we see the confrontation with people — pulling up your mask, putting on your mask.”

“We probably see that 100 times per day.”

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Horn says most people comply right away, but not all.

“Some people don’t want to be told what to do… (believe) it’s not real, all that crap. We don’t want other customers to be around people who don’t have their mask up.”

Horn says those conversations inside his business are no different than what he sees elsewhere in the city.

But Winnipeg Police Service Const. Rob Carver says it’s too premature to point to the disagreement over mask-wearing as the sole factor in this attack.

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“I have no doubt that happened, but we can’t draw a direct line between the statement and the act of violence,” Carver explains. “It would be inappropriate at this stage in the investigation.”

The constable says that part of Main Street is an area to which his officers are frequently called.

“That particular area has a lot of socio-economic problems. There’s extreme poverty, substance abuse, homelessness,” Carver said.

“All of those things are precursors for potential violence.”

Carver doesn’t want the dispute over mask-wearing to be made into something larger than it really is.

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Read more: Masks still key to fighting COVID-19 spread despite high vaccination, experts say

From his perch, he says it’s not all that common.

“We’re not seeing a lot of disputes where police are called to arbitrate something related to the enforcement of public health measures. If I said there was one every two weeks, that would probably be accurate.”

The victim is already back to work, Horn says, and his recovery was shockingly fast.

“He got out of the hospital around 5 a.m., and made it for his 6 p.m. shift with bandages on his chest and fingers.”

“He was in a good mood, making jokes,” Horn says, noting he came in to work still donning his hospital wristband.

Police haven’t named a suspect, but say they are working on some leads.

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