TORONTO, Canada (CBC News/CNN) – A Canadian family who moved from Colombia to get away from war says they were attacked by a man with a bat, who accused them of being French-speaking terrorists.
Sergio Estepa and his family were in a busy parking lot in the city of St. Thomas, Ontario, Thursday afternoon when a man began speaking to them.
The confrontation quickly turned hostile.
According to Estepa, the man, later identified as 36-year-old Mark Phillips, told the family that they didn’t belong, in part because they were speaking French. Estepa says they were actually speaking Spanish.
Phillips then called Estepa a terrorist and claimed they were with ISIS, the man says.
When Phillips charged at Estepa’s 13-year-old son, the father stepped in front of his boy. Estepa was hit with the man’s bat and suffered a cracked rib and large bruise.
Estepa recorded the attack, and the man’s common-law partner, Mari Zambrano, posted the video to Instagram Friday.
WARNING: The video that accompanies this story contains material that may be disturbing to viewers.
A post shared by ??M&M???? (@mariuxstepa) on Dec 7, 2017 at 7:52pm PST
The family says only one person in the parking lot helped them. She happened to be a former vice principal at the 13-year-old’s elementary school, and she told them she would give police a statement.
Police say they are investigating the incident as something that was “racially motivated.”
“It set me back. It was quite disturbing… I’m shocked – I’m outraged that something like this would happen in our community to our community members,” said Sgt. Brian Carnegie with St. Thomas Police.
Phillips was arrested several hours after the incident. He was charged with aggravated assault and three counts of assault with a weapon. He was denied bail and will return to court Monday.
Estepa and Zambrano came to Canada separately, almost 20 years ago, and met while teaching English as a second language.
The two say the biggest enemy is indifference and that people should try to help others.
Just days before the attack, they were talking to their son about stepping in when he sees others being picked on.
Copyright 2017 CBC News via CNN. All rights reserved.