Lassana Bathily is being hailed a hero for hiding a group of shoppers. He hid them in a basement cold storage room at the Hyper Cacher supermarket to shield them from the gunman, according to the Huffington Post. Bathily, 24, is a Muslim shop assistant originally from Mali, in west Africa, and is being praised for risking his own life to save those led to safety.
“When they came running down I opened the door of the fridge,” he told French TV. “Several came in with me. I turned off the light and the fridge. When I turned off the cold, I put them in. I closed the door. I told them to stay calm and I said ‘you stay quiet there, I’m going back out’.”
Lassana Bathily wasn’t seen as a hero at first by police, because they originally thought he was a conspirator when he managed to escape through a goods lift. They arrested him on the spot with guns pulled, according to CBC. Once freed he was able to give them details of the layout of the store and where people were hiding.
“They told me, ‘get down on the ground, hands over your head’. They cuffed me and held me for an hour and a half as if I was with them,” he added.”
After the shootout he said that many of the customers he had helped came out and told Lassana Bathily that he was a hero.
“When they got out, they thanked me,” he said.
One of those trapped in the cold store Johan Dorre, 36, a father of four, was able to call his uncle and say he was trapped two floors below the ground floor. Another uncle, Jacob Katorza, said: “Johan and the others were terrified that they would be discovered by the terrorists and were forced to huddle together like frightened animals to avoid hypothermia.” The cried about the experience and hailed the store clerk a hero.
Multiple people survived the attack, which French President Francois Hollande called “an anti-Semitic act,” by hiding inside the freezer. It is not yet clear how many people he saved in the store, since many traumatized survivors have not yet come forward with their version of events. The generosity could dissolve a lot of tensions with Muslims in the community.
Lassana Bathily was hailed as a hero on social media at a time of especially high tensions between Muslim and non-Muslim communities in France, in the wake of al-Qaeda-claimed terror attacks Wednesday against satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and Friday against the kosher grocery store, notes ITV.