'They do not know if their father will come back': Security guard's family struggles after hit-and-run

Philippe Jean had only just started working as a security guard at a Walmart in Sherbrooke, Que., when he was allegedly struck by a vehicle driven by a man enraged over COVID-19 shopping restrictions.

Philippe Jean had just begun work as Walmart guard when allegedly struck by driver enraged by COVID-19 rules

Guillaume Jean is calling on people to treat each other calmly and with kindness, after his 35-year-old brother Philippe, the father of five children, was run over by a vehicle while working as a security guard in this parking lot in Sherbrooke, Que., Saturday. (Martin Bilodeau/Radio-Canada)

Philippe Jean had just started working as a security guard a few days before he was run over Saturday in a Walmart parking lot, the vehicle allegedly driven by a man enraged over COVID-19 shopping restrictions.

As Jean, 35, lies in hospital in critical condition, his family is still trying to wrap their heads around what happened.

"It's incomprehensible. I can't understand," Jean's brother, Guillaume Jean, told Radio-Canada Monday.

"He found a job to meet his family's needs last Wednesday. Saturday, I found myself cleaning [blood off] the pavement because someone lost his mind."

Philippe Jean was hired as a security guard at the Walmart in Sherbrooke, Que., to enforce regulations the store had put in place to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

On Saturday evening, a 25-year-old man allegedly got into an altercation with Jean after being told he could not enter the store with his partner because the store was only letting in one person per vehicle.

The suspect is alleged to have grown frustrated and later returned to the store, running Jean over just moments before he finished his shift.

"My brother has five kids at home, and they don't know if their father will ever come back. That's not normal," said Guillaume Jean. "In a moment of madness, a father might lose his life, just because someone couldn't enter the store with his girlfriend?"

Guillaume Jean had to close down his own business because of COVID-19 and understands that people may be frustrated, but he is urging people to show compassion for others doing essential work.

"I don't understand, as an individual, how you can have such a low IQ that you're unable to co-operate with basic rules which are only going to help us get out of this crisis," he said.

In a statement to CBC News, Walmart said it had recently put in place several other new measures to keep customers and employees safe.

"The safety of our associates, third party contractors, and customers is a top priority at Walmart. We were very saddened to hear of this incident," the statement said.

"We have introduced new protocols for social distancing to protect associates and customers, and we strongly encourage all Canadians to adhere to them."

Limiting the number of customers in the store at one time and using floor marking to ensure they are keeping a physical distance from one another are among those measures, Walmart said. It did not state specifically whether only one person per vehicle is being allowed into the store.

Suspect appears in court

The 25-year-old suspect appeared via video conference in a Sherbrooke courtroom Monday afternoon. There, he was charged with aggravated assault, leaving the scene of an accident, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and assault with a weapon causing bodily harm.

Philippe Jean was still in critical condition Monday evening, but according to his brother, he has started breathing on his own again and reacts to hearing his wife's voice.

Messages of solidarity poured in for Jean on social media, with more than $80, 000 raised for the family on a crowdfunding page.

Philippe Jean remains in critical condition in hospital after being struck by a vehicle here Saturday. (Annick Sauvé/Radio-Canada)

But while Jean's family appreciates the public support, they want nothing more than to see him well again.

"What we want is for my brother to recover. Yes, there are hopeful signs, but we have to keep thinking of him, thinking of his family," his brother said.

Security guards licensed by the hundreds

Michel Juneau-Katsuya, senior vice-president of Titan Security, the group that hired Jean, said this incident was a rare occurrence.

"Ninety-nine per cent of the time it goes very, very well. Everybody co-operates. Everybody understands," Juneau-Katsuya told CBC News.

"Occasionally, some guards have reported an altercation or a heated argument — occasionally with some individuals who were frustrated."

He said the company has been trying to help Jean's family and will continue to pay his full salary until social or medical aid becomes available to him.

"We need to take care of our employees," said Juneau-Katsuya.

He said all security guards in the company have been instructed to remain calm and professional at all times. Should they get into a situation where they feel uncomfortable or unsafe, they are encouraged to call the police or their supervisor.

"They must understand that this period of time is emotional for a lot of people. There's a lot of frustration; there's a lot of anger; there's a lot of insecurity," he said.

Jean is one of hundreds of people who have been hired under a temporary security guard licence, specifically to control crowds during this pandemic.

In a statement to CBC News, Quebec's public security bureau said it has issued 521 temporary security guard licences since March 30.

They are valid for up to 120 days, and applicants are only required to pass a provincial police background check. There are no training or testing requirements to obtain a temporary licence.

With files from Radio-Canada and Alison Northcott

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