Man charged with assault after allegedly confronting men over being Muslim
KITCHENER -- A Guelph man has been charged after what police are calling "hate-related assaults."
Guelph police say that on Wednesday evening, two men were talking outside of a residence near College Avenue West and Scottsdale Drive when a stranger approached them.
The victims asked if he wanted to speak with them, which is when he wrapped his arms around one of their necks and pretended to slit the man's throat.
"They then asked if he would like to speak to them," Const. Kyle Grant said. "At that point, he grabbed one of the males from behind around the neck and kind of made a slashing motion towards his neck with his other hand."
The suspect then started pushing the other victim, accosting them for being Muslim, and then bear-hugged the victim, who tried to flee to his vehicle parked in the driveway.
"A lot of anti-Muslim rhetoric, those sorts of things," Grant said. "It was continual throughout both assaults."
The suspect followed him to his vehicle and continued confronting him for being Muslim.
One of the victims called the Guelph Police Service, and the man fled on foot.
Police arrived and found the man a short distance away, and he was arrested.
According to a news release, the accused, an unidentified 45-year-old man, has been charged with two counts of assault.
"This is something that's being investigated," Grant said. "We're looking into and we are considering hate crime charges."
He was held in custody for a bail hearing on Thursday.
The incident took place near the Muslim Society of Guelph.
"We're really extremely taken aback that something like this could happen in our city," community outreach volunteer Sara Sayyed said.
Sayyed said people have yelled derogatory comments at her and others. She also said the building has been vandalized and items stolen, but nothing like this has happened before.
"It's scary," she said. "You don't want this to happen. You think of your children, your family members out and about in the city just doing their stuff, whether it's shopping, going to school. You want everybody to be safe."
Members of the Muslim Society's mosque live in the area.
"There will definitely be a message to go out and say everybody be aware, keep each other safe and report anything that looks suspicious," Sayyed said.