An Ottawa family is questioning how their son could be attacked in the middle of a crowded shopping mall over the weekend, and say security guards took too long to respond.
Malik Al Saed, 14, was shopping at the Bayshore Shopping Centre with his parents and two sisters Saturday evening. At one point he went to the washroom and when he left to return to his family, he said a teenager tried to get his attention, asking if he remembered the teen's friend.
"I said, 'No I don't remember.'"
When he tried to leave, three other teens surrounded him.
"He comes up to me and says, 'Either you give me your money or you're going to pay for it,'" Malik recalled.
At first he thought it was a joke, until the teenager who first talked to him punched him in the chest. He said he hit back and was then punched multiple times in the face by the other teens, which knocked him to the floor.
At that point the teens fled, he said.
'I was really horrified'
Witnesses told him he lost consciousness, he said.
Two of his teeth were chipped, the left side of his face is sore, and doctors told him he may have a concussion.
His family is worried about the brazenness of the attack; how it could have happened in front of a food court full of shoppers.
"I was really horrified with what I saw," said Mahmod Al Saed, Malik's father. "I consider the mall, It's like the church or the mosque. You don't consider somebody will attack you, you know? It's really a nice place to be."
He also questioned what he called a delayed security response. He said witnesses told him it took more than 10 minutes for security guards to appear, followed moments later by police.
When he questioned a security guard about the delayed response, he was told they were short-staffed, Mahmod Al Saed said.
4 guards on staff, mall says
"We're very sorry this incident occurred. This young fellow had something happen here and our security people, as soon as they were notified, they responded," said Denis Pelletier, Bayshore Shopping Centre's general manager.
The mall's security is handled by GardaWorld and there are normally three to four security guards patrolling the mall during operating hours. Pelletier said guards responded within two minutes of learning about the attack, and that there were four guards on duty at the time.
Pelletier said the security team wasn't short-staffed, and added that the number of guards was increased for March break.
He did not say how many similar incidents were reported to security guards in past months.
"They do happen just like at any other public area. There's people who come to the mall and some of them are here to shop. Some of them, you know, are here and don't always agree with one another. So, there are incidents," he said.
The mall is equipped with security cameras, which are monitored regularly, he said.
Ottawa police told CBC News they are investigating an incident at the mall on Saturday.
Former mall employee not surprised
Isaiah Redden worked at the Bayshore mall until just after Christmas as an assistant store manager. He says he's not surprised to hear about the swarming.
"I hate to say it but its something I've come to expect in this area the biggest thing for me is the lack of reaction to these situations," Redden said.
"I just think especially in this mall the security should be paying a bit more attention to detail. When you have characters walking around the mall who are saying different things or appearing unsafe I think there needs to be a better rotation of people coming through and trying to stop these sorts of things from happening," he said.
Similar attacks reported in Orléans
Saturday's attack follows a number of similar swarmings in Orléans last year.
In those incidents, teenaged victims — and at least one adult — told CBC they were surrounded by several youth who taunted the people or became violent.
As for Malik and Mahmod Al Saed, they want to see the number of guards at Bayshore Shopping Centre tripled.
And Malik still isn't certain he'll return.
"I don't want to even go near there because I don't feel safe anymore," he said.