French Bus Driver Dies Following Brutal Assault Over Face Masks

July 11, 2020 Updated: July 11, 2020

A bus driver in France has died in the hospital on Friday after being declared brain-dead following a severe beating by several passengers who refused to wear face masks and attacked him instead.

Philippe Monguillot, 59, a husband and father of three children, was left brain-dead in the southwestern town of Bayonne on July 5 following an attack what officials called “barbaric,” prompted by the bus driver asking four passengers to wear a face mask while attempting to check a person’s bus ticket.

The bus driver’s family made the decision to switch off his life support on Friday, news agency Agence France-Presse reported.

“We decided to let him go. The doctors were in favor and we were as well,” the victim’s 18-year-old daughter, Marie Monguillot, told AFP.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the incident “touches us in the heart” and those involved will be punished for this “abject crime,” he wrote on Twitter shortly after his passing.

“The death of Philippe Monguillot, cowardly assaulted Sunday in Bayonne for having accomplished his work, touches us in the heart,” Castex said. “The Republic recognizes in him an exemplary citizen and will not forget him.”

Epoch Times Photo
Veronique Monguillot, wife of bus driver Philippe Monguillot, declared brain dead after being attacked for refusing to let aboard a group of people who were not wearing face masks, holds a picture of her husband during a white march in Bayonne, southwestern France, on July 8, 2020. (Iroz Gaizka/AFP via Getty Images)

One man connected to the incident was taken into custody at the scene on July 5 shortly after police arrived, while the four others fled the scene. Police detained the other suspects the following day at an apartment in Bayonne, and some were already known to authorities, according to multiple reports.

Prosecutors have charged two of the suspects with attempted murder; the other two men have been charged with non-assistance to a person in danger, and one has also been charged with attempting to hide a suspect, the local prosecutor’s office said, according to AFP.

One of the detained individuals was a minor and has since been released.

‘Barbaric Attack’

The mayor of Bayonne, Jean-René Etchegaray, said the attack was “barbaric” and officials will work toward improving the safety of bus transportation. The mayor of Anglet, Claude Olive, said, “Philippe was a wonderful person who should have been protected.”

The dispute started after Monguillot tried to check a passenger’s ticket, a French prosecutor said during a press conference earlier this week, the Daily Mail reported.

The passenger had joined three other men who had previously mounted the bus without any face coverings. The men refused to follow the mask requirement and Monguillot told them to get off the bus if they didn’t want to wear masks.

Face coverings are mandatory on public transport in France, where the death toll from the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus has claimed over 30,000 lives.

“There were insults and then shoving. The bus driver was pushed out of the bus,” the prosecutor said. Two of the suspects then allegedly punched and kicked Monguillot.

The suspects “violently kicked and punched the upper part of his body, including his head,” the prosecutor said, according to AFP.

Following the brutal attack, some of the men ran away and hid in one of the men’s apartment. The two suspects charged with attempted murder are reportedly aged in their early twenties and had previous police records.

Massive March

Monguillot was honored on Wednesday by about 6,000 people who expressed their grief and took to the streets in a “white march,” French media reported.

Epoch Times Photo
Veronique Monguillot (C), wife of bus driver Philippe Monguillot, declared brain dead after being attacked for refusing to let aboard a group of people who were not wearing face masks, holds a picture of her husband during a white march in Bayonne, southwestern France, on July 8, 2020. (Iroz Gaizka/AFP via Getty Images)

“This white march is additional support because it is an extra force,” Veronique Monguillot, the wife of the victim, told RTL France. “I whispered to Philippe in his ear last night: ‘I will avenge you with justice.’ This promise I will keep; I have the strength and we’re going to fight.”

In several major French cities—including Paris, Strasbourg, and Bordeaux—bus drivers stopped all transportation services at 7:30 p.m. and held a minute’s silence for their fellow bus driver.

“You can’t just take someone’s life for a bus ticket,” Veronique said. “To those people who took my father’s life, my mother’s life, our life. … I want them to suffer,” one of Philippe’s three daughters told RTL France. “I want them to feel how we feel right now.”

Epoch Times Photo
The mayors of Bayonne Jean-rene Etchegaray (L) and Anglet Claude Olive (R) arrives for a meeting with French Junior Transports Minister and bus drivers of the public transport network of Bayonne, southwestern France, waits for the visit of on July 7, 2020. (Iroz Gaizka/AFP via Getty Images)

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin also expressed his condolences to Monguillot’s friends, family, and colleagues.

“This heinous and cowardly act must not go unpunished. I’ll be traveling to Bayonne tomorrow to make a point of safety in the city with state officials and meet with public transport drivers and unions,” he wrote on Twitter Friday.

The attack on Monguillot prompted an angry reaction from his fellow bus drivers, with many refusing to work until after his funeral, AFP reported.

One of his colleagues described him as a “decent and hardworking man who always looked after passengers,” the Mail reported.

“There has been a lot of tension over masks, because they are the law, but bus staff are not police, and we should not have to enforce the law,” he added.