While Lisa McIntosh is still suffering from fatigue, nausea and headaches after being attacked in Queen's Park last week, she still has the feisty spirit that got her through her ordeal.
McIntosh was walking through Queen's Park shortly before 6 p.m. on Jan. 4 when two men hit her over the head with a liquor bottle, pushed her to the ground and demanded she hand over her belongings. She had just seen two vehicles pass her along the road in Queen's Park when she felt something hit her in the head.
"I turned around and saw two guys," she said. "I kicked at him quite hard in the groin area."
McIntosh shielded her backpack behind her, as she didn't want the thieves to get her laptop and other belongings. She took out her IPod earbud to hear what one of the suspects was saying to her.
"He kept saying, 'Give me all your stuff, give me all your stuff ... '" she said. "I kept screaming and screaming."
Eventually, the man holding the liquor bottle grabbed his friend, and they took off through the park. Not wanting the suspects to take her phone, she waited until they were some distance away before calling police.
"I remember saying to the dispatcher, 'By the way, I seem to be bleeding from the head,'" she said.
McIntosh, who has worked as a dispatcher with the New Westminster Police Service for four years, is the daughter of retired New Westminster police officer Ken McIntosh and Coun. Betty McIntosh. Those experiences have made her aware most assaults involve someone known to the victim, not strangers.
"It's such a random thing to happen," she said of the assault that occurred when she was walking to work. "I never thought it would happen to me. I have been walking the Millennium Trail since it was put in. This was a total random thing. They thought I would be an easy target."
When police arrived, McIntosh showed the officer where the assault had occurred. It wasn't until then that she noticed blood on her face and realized a favourite hat was soaking up blood from the gash on her head.
"I said, 'If this hat is ruined, I am going to find those guys and beat them down,'" she said of her reaction to ruining a hat from the Supernatural TV show. "Luckily we have got it all cleaned up, and I have worn it since."
McIntosh was taken by ambulance to Royal Columbian Hospital, where she received nine stitches for the head laceration. She didn't want to worry her parents until she knew the extent of her injuries, so she didn't contact them.
"My staff sergeant had text messaged (Chief Const.) Dave Jones. He hopped in his car and came right away," she said. "One of the nurses said, 'Is this your dad?' I said, 'No, this is the chief of police.'"
While she doesn't downplay the assault, McIntosh said that getting hit by a car while walking last May has had more of an impact on how she views safety.
"I saw the guys run away from me. For me it is like they got scared of me. I won," she said. "I could get hurt by a car everyday. That's what bugs me more."
As a police dispatcher, McIntosh said she's heard many complaints about pedestrian accidents - but she's never taken a call about a random person being hit over the head by a liquor bottle. Although she remains confident about the safety of walking in Queen's Park, she plans to drive to work more often because she doesn't want to cause any more grief for her loved ones.
"Everybody has been so supportive," she said. "The eventuality of it happening again is one in a million."
McIntosh said she's been walking the same route to work for four years and has never had any problems. She takes a different route and walks on city streets when it's really dark.
"At the end of the day they didn't expect me to fight back. They didn't get anything," she said. "All they go from me was a shot in the groin. It might make them think twice before they attack anybody else."
New Westminster resident Susan Wandell said a group of residents is rallying to Take the Dark out of Queen's Park on Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 6 p.m., starting at the Third Avenue and First Street entrance to the park. Some Queen's Park residents organized a walk through the park to show support for McIntosh and to let thugs know that the park belongs to the residents of the city and residents won't be chased away.
McIntosh appreciates the support and welcomes lighting improvements in Queen's Park - and throughout the city. As an "avid pedestrian," she said lighting improvements would improve safety for people walking in the city and decreased the likelihood of tripping, which she considers a more of a hazard than being assaulted.
McIntosh suggests that pedestrians should be alert and aware of their surroundings, but they shouldn't be afraid of walking in New Westminster.
"Take this as a cautionary tale and be more alert than I was," she said. "Everything happens for a reason. It sucks that it happened to me. But it doesn't happen every day. This is my city. I am not going to be afraid of anything in my city. Stuff like this doesn't happen every day."
What surprises McIntosh most about the incident is that it happened at a time when people were using the park. While she was showing police the location of the incident, a jogger passed by.
Wandell, a former president of the Arts Council of New Westminster, said she's spoken to many people through the years who are too intimidated to attend events at the arts council or Bernie Legge Theatre after dark unless they come by car. "It's a matter of bringing the attention to the city, seeing if they can bring more light in."
Dean Gibson, the city's director of parks, culture and recreation, said improved lighting has been in the works for Queen's Park for several months, as part of the new artificial turf field built across from Queen's Park Arena. The design phase is complete, and the project will be finalized and go to tenders within the next couple of weeks.
"We are moving ahead as quickly as possible," he said.
According to Gibson, more than $100,000 has been allocated for the enhancements. Areas of Queen's Park set to receive enhanced lighting are the parking lot on the north side of the arena (across from the new field) and the roadway (from the east side of the arena to Sixth Avenue). Lighting will be enhanced in areas where it already exists and added in areas where none exists along the roadway.
"I think it would be bringing it up to a level people would expect - standard pedestrian level lighting," Gibson said.
The City of New Westminster's parks bylaw prohibits people from being in parks between dawn and dusk, but Gibson said the city recognizes that parks have facilities, such as arenas and fields, that are used in evening.
"Our practice has been we light the areas of the park where we want and reasonably expect the public to be in evening hours," he said.
Gibson said public input will also be sought about park improvements as part of the master planning exercise for Queen's Park that's getting underway this spring.
"Generally speaking, our parks are pretty safe places," said Const. Bruce Carrie of the New Westminster Police Service. "Like anywhere, incidents can occur as happened here."
Carrie advises residents to exercise personal safety, which can be done by planning their routes, avoiding isolated areas and being alert and aware of their surroundings. While it's been said that people shouldn't walk alone in parks in the dark, Carrie said it's still uncommon for residents to encounter any problems.
"We really have a safe community," he said.
Carrie said the assault is "a reminder to us to always practise safe walking when you are out alone."