Bus driver beaten to death after telling passengers to wear face masks

Credit: Bob Edme

Credit: Bob Edme

A 59-year-old bus driver who was brutally attacked and left brain dead a week ago after asking four passengers to wear face masks in compliance with new coronavirus regulations in France has died from his injuries.

Four people are in custody in the July 5 fatal attack on Philippe Monguillot, a married father of three girls.

Monguillot stopped that day to pick up awaiting passengers at a bus stop in Bayonne, in the usually peaceful Basque country of southwest France.

As he checked their tickets, Monguillot reportedly told three men getting on the bus that they would have to wear face coverings, as law requires aboard French public transport during the ongoing pandemic.

That’s when Monguillot was verbally assaulted, forced off the bus, beaten up and kicked in the head, reports said, according to prosecutors.

Monguillot was hospitalized and declared brain dead, surviving for only five more days.

He died Friday after family made the painful decision to take him off life support.

"We decided to let him go," Monguillot's daughter, Marie, told Agence France-Presse. "The doctors were in favour and we were as well," she said, according to the Guardian.

Two men, ages 22 and 23, have been charged with attempted murder in the attack and now face a superseding indictment because the victim has died, Bayonne prosecutor Jerome Bourrier said.

Two other men are charged with failure to assist Monguillot, whom French law recognizes as “a person in danger,” according to reports, which cited a local prosecutor’s office. Another man has been charged with attempting to hide one of the suspects. Some of the suspects were previously known to the police, according to reports.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday sent Gerald Darmanin, his interior minister, to meet with Monguillot’s widow, Veronique, who called for “exemplary punishment” for her husband’s death.

"This bus driver was only doing his job," Darmanin said, according to CBS News. "He left his home in the morning and did not come back, leaving a widow and three orphan girls. It is an absolutely odious act."

Veronique later said she told Darmanin that she and her three daughters have been “destroyed.”

“We must bang a fist on the table, so this never happens again,” she said, according to reports. “It’s barbaric, not normal. We must stop this massacre.”

In Monguillot’s memory, hundreds of people in the family’s community organized a silent march last Wednesday from the bus stop where the assault took place, according to reports.

Concerned for their safety, other drivers refused to go to work in the days after Monguillot’s attack. Some planned to return Monday after meeting with Darmanin, who promised the installation of new security officers aboard the buses.

France has so far seen more than 208,000 confirmed infections and 30,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, although the true toll could be higher due to testing limitations. The country is bracing for a potential new surge in cases and is also weighing contingency plans to reopen schools in the fall, according to reports. The country’s leaders have ruled out another national lockdown in the event of a second wave.