Man accused in St. Thomas baseball bat attack is a lawyer from an influential Toronto family

CBC News has learned the man charged in connection with a baseball bat attack on an immigrant family is a Toronto personal injury lawyer and the great-grandson of former Toronto mayor Nathan Phillips.

Mark Phillips is the great-grandson of former Toronto mayor Nathan Phillips

Police arrested 36-year-old Toronto injury lawyer Mark Phillips in St. Thomas, Ont., on Dec 8, after he allegedly attacked a family from Colombia amid shouts about terrorists and ISIS. (Mark Phillips/LinkedIn)

CBC News has learned the man charged in connection with a baseball bat attack on an immigrant family is a Toronto personal injury lawyer and the great-grandson of former Toronto mayor Nathan Phillips. 

Mark Phillips, 36, was charged on Dec. 8 with aggravated assault and three counts of assault with a weapon in connection with the incident in the parking lot of a St. Thomas, Ont., strip mall.

The family said the man charged at them, unprovoked, before they recorded the confrontation on a cellphone, which has been widely circulated through news outlets and social media.

The video shows a man yelling about terrorists, ISIS and swinging his bat, leaving local man Sergio Estepa with a cracked rib and severe bruising on his back. 

None of the allegations against Phillips has been proven in court. 

A family in southwestern Ontario was attacked and called terrorists by a man wielding a bat. Sergio Estepa is nursing a cracked rib and a large bruise after the incident in a mall parking lot. Mark Phillips, 36, has been charged with aggravated assault and three counts of assault with a weapon. 1:28

'Mayor of all the people'

Philips' great-grandfather, dubbed "the mayor of all the people," was Toronto's first Jewish mayor. Nathan Phillips' election was viewed as a move toward tolerance and diversity in the city. The public square in front of Toronto city hall is named in his honour. 

His portrait still hangs in the accused's parents' home in Toronto, a childhood friend told CBC News. 

His family is shocked and saddened, said uncle Jeff Phillips, a London, Ont., lawyer. 

"His father is very upset," he said, noting there was not much else he could say because he had lost contact with his nephew over the years. 

"I honestly don't know," he said. "I'm not involved with him." 

Nathan Phillips was the first Jewish mayor of Toronto from 1955 to 1962. Some credit his friendly nature and promotion of tolerance as the foundations of the city's current-day cultural diversity. (City of Toronto)

Like his great-grandfather, Mark Phillips chose law as a career, and was called to the bar in September 2008 after graduating in 2007 with a degree from Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., according to his LinkedIn page.

Phillips landed his first job as a personal injury lawyer at the Toronto firm Mazin Rooz Mazin and stayed for about a year, before working at three other firms, never staying longer than three years at a time.

He used his pull at one of those firms to help his childhood friend Chun-Yun Liu land his first job as a paralegal.

"You know how hard it is to get a job in this business, especially when you have no experience," Liu said. "I was looking for work and he was always pretty supportive. The rest is history." 

CBC News has identified the suspect 0:09

Liu has known Phillips since they were Grade 7 students. They went to high school together before parting ways. Still, the two men kept in touch, meeting on average once every few months. 

"He always seemed to me pretty sensible, pretty level-headed," Liu said. "He was the type of guy who wouldn't hurt anybody. He was always there for me." 

Liu said it was with disbelief when he first read of Phillips' arrest.

A woman poses for a picture in the square outside Toronto city hall that bears Nathan Phillips' name. (Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press)

"I was kind of hoping against hope it wasn't him," noting he was even more surprised to learn that St. Thomas police believe the incident may have been "racially motivated."

"Mark is pretty multi-cultural in the friends that he made," he said. "I've never known him to be a racial extremist or whatever you want to call it." 

"That video was a different guy from the Mark I knew." 

Remanded in custody

According to his LinkedIn profile, Philips had been employed at the Toronto personal injury law firm, Barapp Law, but it's not clear whether he still works there. 

Phillips' image and bio have been removed from the firm's website. But there are still videos posted online advertising his services that showcase his political lineage. 

When reached by CBC News, the firm's senior partner Eric Barapp refused to comment. 

Phillips has been remanded in custody at the Elgin Middlesex London Detention Centre until his next appearance in court at the end of the week. 

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: