Olive Garden stabbing in Winnipeg was targeted, Muslim community says

The 18-year-old woman stabbed in the neck while working at Olive Garden last month, suggests she was targeted as a Black Muslim woman. Despite police describing this as a random attack, Winnipeg’s Muslim community is asking them to take another look.

It has been more than a month since police were called to an Olive Garden restaurant in the first 100 block of Reenders Drive on the evening of June 8. At the time police said a suspect, without warning or provocation, repeatedly stabbed a woman – later confirmed to be an employee at the restaurant.

Members of Manitoba’s Muslim community believe the stabbing of an 18-year-old woman was a hate crime. They want Winnipeg police to probe further.

“I was appalled and my community is equally appalled by the haste with which the police reached a conclusion,” Abdikheir Ahmed, a community advocate, said Tuesday.

Police described the June 8 attack as random and unprovoked. Officers charged 27-year-old Robert Alan Ingram with aggravated assault and possession of a weapon.

The Muslim community said the investigation’s outcome and charges came before police were able to interview the victim – a Black Muslim woman, who feels there was nothing random about the attack.

A statement from the woman, a high school student at the time, was read at a news conference Tuesday.

“None of the other people in the Olive Garden that night were Black, Muslim or wearing a hijab, but I was and he was staring at me,” the statement from the woman reads.

She said the staring lasted for what felt like a half hour before the man left and later returned with a knife, stabbing her in the neck, torso and arms.

“This man who attacked me seemed to target me, he didn’t go on a random stabbing spree,” the woman said in her statement.

For this reason, the community wants to know why police called it a random attack and why it’s not considered a hate crime.

MPs Leah Gazan and Terry Duguid echoed the calls for the police to take a second look.

“June 8th has all the hallmarks of an act of hate, targeted towards a young woman,” Duguid said.

“We cannot minimize what occurred as just a random attack,” Gazan said.

Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth said the term random means the suspect and victim did not know each other, and added that even taking into account the victim’s information, he is satisfied the investigation was thorough.

“What I’m telling you is there is no evidence that supports you know it being motivated by a hate crime,” Smyth said Tuesday.

The investigation aside, the Muslim community is also highlighting a rise in hate against its members and other minority groups.

“A high percentage of Muslims have experienced verbal, even physical attacks because of their faith,” said Yusif Sufi, with the Islamic Association of Canada.

City councillor Brian Mayes was at the news conference representing the city. He said he plans on raising this with Police Board Chair Markus Chambers and Mayor Scott Gillingham who also sits on the police board to get a briefing on how police reached its conclusions. 

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