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Meet the person who stepped-in to help St. Thomas family attacked by bat-wielding man

The woman praised by a St. Thomas family for stepping in when a bat-wielding man attacked them in a parking lot last week says she was just doing what was right.

Esther Wendel-Caraher called 9-1-1 and stayed with family when she heard screaming in the parking lot

Esther Wendel-Caraher, a principal at a public school in St. Thomas, stepped in when a man with a baseball bat began shouting at a St. Thomas family on Thursday. (Supplied photo)

The woman praised by a St. Thomas family for stepping in when a bat-wielding man attacked them in a parking lot last week says she was just doing what was right. 

Esther Wendel-Caraher was leaving a clinic at the Elgin Mall on Thursday afternoon when she heard shouts for help. 

At first she thought it was teenagers rough-housing. Then, she heard a second voice, that of a woman, call out for help. 

"I thought, 'Hey, this is not a joke. Something is going on here.' I'm still stunned about what happened," Wendel-Caraher said. 

What she came across was a man holding a bat, yelling about ISIS and terrorists while confronting a family, originally from Colombia. 

The dramatics were caught on video and posted to social media. 

 

"My parents are immigrants to this country, and I'm a proud Canadian," Wendel-Caraher said. "It could have been a whole lot worse. You have to do what you can do to make the world a better place."

Wendel-Caraher called 911 and stayed on the phone until the bat-wielding man took off, and police arrived. 

No one else stepped forward

She doesn't think she's deserving of any praise. Others who were in the parking lot likely didn't respond because the incident was so shocking and out-of-place, she said. 

Wendel-Caraher is a principal at a public school in Sparta, and volunteers helping Syrian families in St. Thomas. She said that the incident, and its racist overtones, aren't reflective of the community. 
Mari Zambrano and Sergio Estepa in their home in St. Thomas, a day after they were attacked by a man wielding a baseball bat, yelling about ISIS and terrorists. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

That sentiment is echoed by Mari Zambrano and Sergio Estepa, the couple who were in the parking lot with their son when they were approached by the bat-wielding man. 

Estepa praised Wendel-Caraher and her courage for coming to the family's aid. He said he doesn't want people to think poorly of St. Thomas. 

"We love this community and we love Canada," he said. 

The two emigrated from Colombia separately almost 20 years ago, and met while learning English as a second language in London. They have a 13-year-old son. 

On Monday, the man charged in the incident appeared briefly in St. Thomas court. 

Mark Phillips, 36, is charged with aggravated assault and and three counts of assault with a weapon. 

He will stay at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre until a court appearance Friday. 

A publication ban was placed on evidence heard at Monday's hearing.