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Black Muslim Store Employee Hailed as Hero in Paris for Saving More Than a Dozen People In Grocery Store

Lassana Bathily

Lassana Bathily

Amid the anti-Muslim fervor sweeping Europe in the wake of the terror attacks that killed 17 people, there is the story of Lassana Bathily, a Black Muslim employee at a grocery store in Paris who is being hailed as a hero for hiding people in a walk-in freezer to protect them from the gunman who wound up killing four people.

But even Bathily’s story is tinged with racial misperceptions, as the police initially mistook him for one of the terrorists, requiring him to spend an hour and a half trying to convince them otherwise.

When Amedy Coulibaly came into the Paris Kosher grocery store called Hyper Cacher, he immediately opened fire, killing 4 people. Coulibaly then took several shoppers hostage, threatening to kill them if the police stormed the printing shop where Coulibaly’s partners, Cherif and Said Kouachi, the duo who had already killed 12 people in an attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo earlier in the week, were hiding north of Paris.

“I went down to the freezer, I opened the door, there were several people who went in with me. I turned off the light and the freezer,” Bathily, 24, told French network BFMTV. “I brought them inside and I told them to stay calm here, I’m going to go out. When they got out, they thanked me.”

While city councillor Malik Yettou told the media that six people and a baby escaped the gunman by hiding with Bathily, BFMTV said it was about 15 people. After another employee was able to escape through an emergency exit and bring the store keys to the police, they raided the market at the same time as police to the north burst into the print shop, according to L’Express.

The Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly were killed at approximately the same time. When Bathily escaped through a freight elevator, he encountered police who thought he was one of the terrorists.

“They told me, get down on the ground, hands over your head,” he said. “They cuffed me and held me for an hour and a half as if I was with them.”

During his time with police, Bathily said he helped them by giving them details of the store’s floor plan.

“We are brothers. It’s not a question of Jews, of Christians or of Muslims,” he sad during an appearance on BFMTV. “We’re all in the same boat, we have to help each other to get out of this crisis.



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