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Man pepper-sprays gay-bashing 14-year-old: heroic or just wrong?

If someone was taunting and harassing a loved one, your instinct would probably be to fight back, right?

Now what if the tormentor was a teenaged girl?

Halifax resident Christopher Whittle, 39, told the CBC, he used pepper spray on a 14-year-old girl after she harassed his boyfriend for weeks about being gay.

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Whittle said the taunting began when his partner, who works at the Halifax Shopping Centre, wore beads to work from gay pride.

"This was happening every few days. She was coming and making comments about him being gay, and basically just taunting him for who he was…" Whittle told the broadcaster, explaining the girl used gay slurs. "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."

Obviously, such gay bashing is despicable and should not be tolerated from anyone. While his actions are extreme (and have landed him in trouble with the law), some are applauding Whittle for what he did next.

Whittle says he went to his car, got out his pepper spray, and sprayed the girl near the mall parking lot. Police arrested him hours later. He now faces charges of assault with a weapon and possession of a dangerous weapon.

Whittle told the CBC he had not realized how young the girl was at the time, believing she was a woman because she looked older. He was shocked to learn she was 14.

"I do regret how I handled it. 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," he said.

While police told the CBC there is no excuse to use pepper spray, plenty of online commenters are taking Whittle's side.

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"Good for him," one commenter wrote on the Yahoo news site.

Another noted: "and the girl gets away scott free that's crap….. so much for trying to stop bullies…"

Still others argued the police's advice that people should call on their assistance instead of taking matters into their own hands is unhelpful.

The case raises some big questions: Is vigilantism ever justified?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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