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Canada Toronto store owners brutally beaten after forcing customer out for not wearing mask

13:15  29 may  2020
13:15  29 may  2020 Source:   cbc.ca

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Xue Lin, left, and Zhao Guang Yu own Levol Convenience Food Mart, just south of Kensington Market. They insist that all customers wear a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic. While most people comply, Lin says some still argue with the mandatory mask policy. © Laura Howells/CBC Xue Lin, left, and Zhao Guang Yu own Levol Convenience Food Mart, just south of Kensington Market. They insist that all customers wear a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic. While most people comply, Lin says some still argue with the mandatory mask policy.

(Warning: Story contains graphic descriptions that may be disturbing to some users. Caution advised.)

Zhao Guang Yu's face is still bruised from the night four men attacked him and his wife in their Toronto convenience store last month, hitting them and stomping on his face as he was lying on the ground.

It's painful for Xue Lin to hear her own bloodcurdling screams on video from a surveillance camera outside their store, as attackers allegedly pummelled her husband.

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Inside, Lin was shielding Yu with her body as the men battered him against the ice cream freezer, she says  — but that didn't stop the men from beating her as well.

Minutes earlier, Lin says, the couple had forced a combative customer out after she refused to wear a mask. The attackers came in apparent retribution, after the customer told the men she was "hit" for "no reason," according to the sound on the surveillance video.

None of the altercation with the customer, or the attack by the four men, is visible on camera, but some of it can be heard on the audio.

Lin says she felt helpless during the attack; her mind was blank, as she desperately tried to protect her husband.

"Four guys, tall guys," she said. "Of course we can't do anything."

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a man and a woman standing in front of a store: Xue Lin points out the bruises that are still healing on her husband Zhao Guang Yu's face, more than a month after he was brutally beaten and stomped on in their Toronto convenience store. © Laura Howells/CBC Xue Lin points out the bruises that are still healing on her husband Zhao Guang Yu's face, more than a month after he was brutally beaten and stomped on in their Toronto convenience store.

Lin and Yu have insisted all customers wear a mask since early in the COVID-19 pandemic, even before mass closures started in March. The couple own Levol Convenience Food Mart on Dundas Street West, just south of Kensington Market. 

They opened in 2016, and Lin says she always remembers her customers after they've been in a few times.

She says she doesn't scare easily, even while working alone at night with customers who can sometimes get difficult

But after the incident, to avoid conflict, she says they keep the door to the shop locked at night, and only open it to people wearing a mask. 

Masks are critical, Lin says; her parents live downstairs, and she feels a responsibility to her family and customers' health.

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Most customers willingly wear their mask, or buy one for a dollar. But on a Thursday night in mid-April, Lin says, a woman refused to put her mask on despite repeated requests to wear it or leave. She was laughing with another woman in the aisles, mask in hand, she says.

After asking several times, Lin says she finally grabbed the woman to pull her out of the store. The customer punched her in response, Lin says, also hitting her husband.

a sign above a store: The owners of Levol Convenience Food Mart required all customers to wear a mask early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, well before Canada's chief public health officer officially recommended using face coverings when physically distancing isn't possible. © Laura Howells/CBC The owners of Levol Convenience Food Mart required all customers to wear a mask early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, well before Canada's chief public health officer officially recommended using face coverings when physically distancing isn't possible.

Lin says she fought back, kicking as the couple pushed the fighting customer out. Outdoor security footage, supplied by Lin, captures a woman saying, "Don't touch me," and then daring them to strike her, saying: "Hit me," as Lin screams at her to get out (the people are out of sight in the video).

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Outside the store, a woman's voice says to to call somebody. A sobbing woman later tells a man that store workers "attacked me for no reason."

That's when four men entered, Lin says  — regular customers she recognized.

To her shock, she says, they started hitting her husband.

The audio captures a man yelling, "Why did you hit her?" and shouting before Lin starts shrieking. Her husband yells in apparent agony.

A 'mountain' of bruising

The men knocked store shelves down as they beat him, Lin says. Their blows knocked her husband to the floor, despite Lin hugging him to protect him.

A man was stomping on his face while Yu was unable to move, she says, before they finally left.

a person standing in front of a store: Xue Lin shows how she tried to 'hug' her husband to protect him, as attackers beat him against the ice cream freezer. © Laura Howells/CBC Xue Lin shows how she tried to 'hug' her husband to protect him, as attackers beat him against the ice cream freezer.

The next day Yu's face was black with bruises, with one eye "like a mountain," Lin says.

"My husband stayed home [for] two weeks," she said.

'We're not fighting people'

Toronto Police got a call around 9:30 p.m. on April 15, and continue to investigate a reported assault.

Lin says she was crying as they talked to police, she was so worried about her husband. 

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"I'm going to close my store," Lin says she thought after the attack, sleepless and devastated that night. 

She woke up with pain in her back and shoulders from the blows, but decided to open up later that day.

a person standing in front of a store: Zhao Guang Yu, left, and Xue Lin in their store, Levol Convenience Food Mart, on Dundas Street West near Spadina Avenue. © Laura Howells/CBC Zhao Guang Yu, left, and Xue Lin in their store, Levol Convenience Food Mart, on Dundas Street West near Spadina Avenue.

Weeks later, Yu is also back to work, though he still has bruising on his face. 

He didn't want to see a doctor at the time because the hospital seemed too dangerous due to COVID-19, Lin says. But she worried about potential head injuries and exposure to COVID-19 during the assault.

An attack like this has never happened before, says Lin: 

"We're not fighting people."

Toronto Police say they have made no arrests in the case.

'We don't want more people [to] get the virus'

Lin says she and her husband can't have any tolerance for people who don't wear masks — even if it's meant losing business during the pandemic.

It's more important to keep people safe, she says, and people need to respect their wishes.

"We don't want more people [to] get the virus," she said.

"I reduce business? Fine. I need to do my way."

Xue Lin says she wants to keep her family and customers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic while working at her store, Levol Convenience Food Mart, in downtown Toronto. © Laura Howells/CBC Xue Lin says she wants to keep her family and customers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic while working at her store, Levol Convenience Food Mart, in downtown Toronto.

Lin notices more people taking precautions against COVID-19 in recent weeks, though some people still argue with the mandatory mask policy.

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Lin says there were two previous times that she had to grab people and call police when unmasked customers refused to leave. 

"We don't want fighting," said Lin, adding she usually tries to handle the situation herself before calling police.

a store in a brick building: All customers must wear a mask before entering Levol Convenience Food Mart during the COVID-19 pandemic. While most customers comply, owner Xue Lin says some still argue. © Laura Howells/CBC All customers must wear a mask before entering Levol Convenience Food Mart during the COVID-19 pandemic. While most customers comply, owner Xue Lin says some still argue.

"If you don't like to wear a mask ... you don't need to come in," said Lin, who sometimes fills simple orders for customers while they wait outside. They also offer free gloves for customers.

 "[It's] fair to other customers, fair to us."

She urges people to take masks seriously.

"Right now... this weather is very hot," said Lin. "But still, think about health," she added.

"So, please wear [a] mask."

a person standing in front of a store: Xue Lin stands outside Levol Convenience Food Mart, her store on Dundas Street in downtown Toronto. © Laura Howells/CBC Xue Lin stands outside Levol Convenience Food Mart, her store on Dundas Street in downtown Toronto.

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