Assault suspects may have catcalled victim’s girlfriend, sparking New Year’s fight
A shocking assault on a Toronto-based lawyer on New Year’s Day may have been sparked by a catcall directed at the victim’s girlfriend, Toronto police say.
It was shortly after midnight when 36-year-old David Shellnut got into a fight with two other men on Queen Street West near Bathurst Street.
Shellnutt was walking along Queen with his girlfriend when, police say, a group of men passing by in a Dodge Charger “communicated a lewd remark” toward the woman.
“I don’t have the specifics of what was said, but that’s the general perception that we’ve gotten from people who have called in,” Det. Scott Allan said Thursday.
“There was a verbal altercation between Mr. Shellnutt and the occupants of that vehicle.”
Following the comments, the vehicle drove off but stopped at a red light on Bathurst Street. Seeing this, Allan said Shellnutt turned around, picked up a bag of garbage and hurled it toward the vehicle.
The bag hit the vehicle and appeared to provoke its occupants.
According to police, two male passengers got out of the vehicle and started to chase after Shellnutt, who had already started running back toward his companion.
At that point, a fight broke out between the three men.
The attack, as seen on security video, started on the sidewalk but quickly spilled onto busy Queen Street. The victim’s girlfriend appeared to try and intervene briefly but backed away as the chaos swelled.
“(The first suspect) strikes Mr. Shellnutt on the left side of his head causing him to go rigid and fall backwards onto the concrete,” Allan said as he recapped the events that led to Shellnut lying unconscious on the sidewalk.
“As that happens, with his head a very short distance from the concrete, the second male approaches Mr. Shellnutt and strikes him again on the left side of his face, driving his head back onto the concrete again.”
In new security video, taken from a building across the street, the driver of the Dodge Charger can be seen exiting the vehicle and running toward the brawl. Police said they believe Shellnutt had already been beaten at this point. The driver and two suspects ran back to the vehicle seconds later and drove off.
The vehicle drove south on Bathurst Street and eventually made a left turn onto Adelaide Street, police said. The vehicle has been described as a 2019 Dodge Charger SXT in “B5 blue” with an Ontario licence plate. At this point, police have not been able to obtain a plate number.
“The vehicle is possibly a rental vehicle. We’re not sure at this time,” Allan said.
“It’s my understanding that that colour of blue was not available in anything but very high-end models of the Dodge Charger until 2019. By the rims on the vehicle, it appears to be one of their trim levels an SXT package, which is the lower to middle range of the model line, which would typically be used for fleet rentals.”
Allan said investigators have also traced the vehicle to the King Street West and Peter Street area at around 12:44 a.m.
“I am optimistic that someone saw something,” he said.
Shellnutt was bleeding heavily when police officers arrived on scene. He was rushed to hospital with serious injuries, however, his condition worsened in hospital and he fell into a coma.
He awoke from the coma recently and is recovering. He will not be facing charges in this case.
“I am walking now but still in pain and intubated,” Shellnut wrote Monday on a GoFundMe page created in an effort to support his recovery.
“I am finally taking guests but am easily overwhelmed (and yes, I had some help writing this out). It is becoming clear that though I’m progressing well it will be a long road of recovery and rehabilitation.”
In a photograph posted with the update, Shellnut gives a thumbs up as tubes dangle from his face and a bandage covers his nose.
Images of the suspects were released just two days after the brutal attack.
The first suspect has been described as a man between 25 and 35 years old, six-foot-one, with a medium build, short dark brown hair worn in corn rows and a “pencil beard.”
He was last seen wearing a grey coat over a black hooded top, black jeans with tears on the front of the legs, white socks, and black shoes with blue soles.
The second suspect has been described as a black man between 25 and 35 years old, five-foot-nine with a medium build, short dark brown hair with a receding hairline. Police say he was wearing prescription eyeglasses at the time with black arms, and may have a moustache or goatee.
At the time of the attack, he was wearing a black waist length coat over a black hooded sweat top, blue jeans with tears on the front, and light and navy blue running shoes with white soles.
Anyone with information is being asked to contact Toronto police or Crime Stoppers anonymously.