A gay Canadian man is facing criminal charges after reportedly using pepper spray on a 14-year-old girl who was taunting his boyfriend for weeks.
As CBC News reports, Christopher Whittle was arrested at the Halifax Shopping Centre last week after spraying the teen with the irritant. Whittle, 39, now faces four charges, including assault with a weapon and possession of a dangerous weapon, and could be sentenced to jail if convicted.
Whittle argued that the girl (who has not been identified) had been frequently harassing his boyfriend, who works at the mall, with homophobic slurs before the incident.
"She was coming and making comments about him being gay, and basically just taunting him for who he was, calling him a faggot, fruit whatever," Whittle said. "After so much of this going on, and seeing how this affected him –- someone you love being tortured in this way, it does something to you. It really does."
Whittle also said he was shocked to learn the girl was 14, and believed she was a woman: "I could have handled it differently. But at the time I guess I was just so upset with everything that had gone on, that’s how I reacted."
The teen's father defended his daughter, whom he described as being "completely devastated" by the incident. He also noted she has since been forbidden from leaving school grounds during her lunch hour and has been asked to stop hanging out with her friends, whom he called the "wrong gang."
According to the Chronicle Herald, he also denied claims that his daughter was homophobic: "Anyone who knows her knows that she is just not like that. Her godfather is gay."
A number of varying sources have spoken out about Whittle's case. "I grew up with the adage, 'Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,'" one Yahoo! commenter wrote. "Worked for me when I was 9 -- but I guess for a grown man, when you call him names, it causes him to pull pepper spray out and spray a 14-year-old girl."
On the flip side, several area lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates have come to Whittle's defense. "There's no circumstance in which it's acceptable to perpetuate violence against a harasser," Kevin Kindred is quoted by the CBC as saying. "I'm just saying it's understandable to me how someone feels that pressure as a result of harassment and makes what ultimately is a bad and indefensible choice."