A Canadian family was forced to endure a hellish encounter when a man wielding a baseball bat approached them in a parking lot and began bellowing “ISIS!” at them.
The man, who has since been arrested, went further than a verbal confrontation, even swinging the bat and cracking one of Sergio Estepa’s ribs.
Estepa says that he doesn’t know what brought on the encounter, which happened Thursday in Ontario, telling CBC, “He started saying we don’t belong here, that we are speaking French. But we were not speaking French, we were speaking Spanish. We don’t know him.”
The man was later identified as 36-year-old Mark Phillips and was charged with aggravated assault and three counts of assault with a weapon. Estepa and his family are from Columbia, and they fled the South American country to escape the wars that have torn it apart. He says that the man appeared to be coming after his 13-year-old son, and that’s when he stepped to the front so his child would not get hurt.
Moments later, a woman approached them and told them that she would give a statement to police. Estepa says that he was surprised that no one else came forward, adding, “It’s quite an active mall.” He says that the woman who did volunteer to help is a principal at his son’s school.
One of the family members was able to record a raw video of the incident, which was shared over 6,600 times and was featured in Canadian television reports.
In the video, Phillips points at the family and yells “ISIS” and “we got terrorists here” while advancing toward them. In response, Estepa repeatedly tells him to “back off” and stay away from his family.
On Twitter, a viewer pointed out that it’s possible that the man was having a “psychotic episode.” Canadian journalist Natasha Fatah pointed out that it’s unclear if Williams is suffering from a mental illness, adding, “There is public interest in this story.”
While the United States has aimed to cut down the number of refugees who enter the country, Canada is welcoming much higher numbers of people fleeing war zones in the Middle East and around the world. Unfortunately, the overflow of asylum seekers in Canada has created a towering backlog as officials work to process the new immigrants — a New York Times report from October cited Canadian immigration authorities as saying that they have a backlog of over 40,000 cases.