BAYONNE, France – A bus driver was beaten to death earlier this month in southwestern France after he asked a group of his passengers to wear masks, authorities said.
Philippe Monguillot, 59, died Friday, five days after the brutal assault that left him brain dead. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks are mandatory on public transportation in France.
“It’s not my father breathing, it’s the ventilator. We know that it’s over,” Monguillot’s 18-year-old daughter, Marie Monguillot, told the Sud Ouest newspaper.
The teen told AFP the family decided to “let him go.”
“The doctors were in favor, and we were as well,” she said.
Since the attack, there has been an outpouring of support for the Monguillot family. French philosopher and politician François-Xavier Bellamy described Philippe Monguillot as “the face of France who works hard, who respects basic rules, who knows the value of civility and who silently suffers the savagery of society.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex on Friday lambasted the suspects for their “cowardly” act and praised Monguillot.
“The Republic recognizes in him an exemplary citizen and will not forget him,” Castex wrote on Twitter. “Justice will punish the perpetrators of this abject crime.”
According to prosecutors in Bayonne, four men attacked Philippe Monguillot after he asked three of them to put on face masks. He tried to check the fourth man’s ticket, France 24 reported.
“There were insults and then shoving. The bus driver was pushed out of the bus,” assistant prosecutor Marc Mariee told reporters during a July 7 news conference. “Two individuals then violently kicked and punched the upper part of his body, including his head.”
Monguillot was unconscious when police arrived.
The men tried to hide in an apartment belonging to one of the suspects, Mariee said. Two of the men were initially charged with attempted murder, charges that will likely be upgraded following Monguillot’s death.
The pair, who are 22 and 23 years old, had prior criminal records, authorities said.
Watch the French news conference about the attack on Philippe Monguillot below, courtesy of Sud Ouest.
The other two men were charged with failing to assist a person in danger, and the occupant of the apartment where they hid is additionally charged with attempting to hide a suspect, according to France 24.
The Associated Press reported that Monguillot’s family led a large-scale march on July 8 demanding justice in his attack. His wife, Veronique Monguillot, said Saturday that she and the couple’s three daughters have been “destroyed” by his death.
“We must bang a fist on the table, so this never happens again,” Veronique Monguillot said Saturday. “It’s barbaric, not normal. We must stop this massacre.”
French President Emmanuel Macron sent Gerald Darmanin, the country’s interior minister, to Bayonne on Saturday to speak with the Monguillot family and Philippe Monguillot’s fellow bus drivers, who had refused to go to work following the attack.
The drivers resumed work on Monday under beefed-up security protocols, France 24 reported.
Darmanin mourned the tragedy on Twitter.
“Philippe Monguillot was doing his job. This is why he was brutally attacked,” Darmanin tweeted Saturday. “This despicable act should not go unpunished. Thanks to the work of the police, the alleged perpetrators are now under investigation and detained. Authority must be affirmed.”
The AP reported that France has struggled to contain the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 208,000 people and killed more than 30,000 residents. Experts believe the toll is higher due to limitations with the country’s testing and mild cases that may not have been counted.
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