The Slatest

Muslim Employee of Kosher Market Hailed as Hero for Saving Shoppers

Lassana Bathily talks to French television about how he hid a group of people at a Paris kosher market that was the site of a hostage situation on Jan. 9, 2015.

Lassana Bathily, a 24-year-old originally from Mali, is being hailed as a hero for risking his own life to save 15 shoppers at the Paris kosher market that was the scene of carnage on Friday. A quick-thinking Bathily hid a group of shoppers, including one who had a baby, in a basement walk-in freezer when Amedy Coulibaly threatened to kill them. Bathily, who is Muslim, apparently guided the shoppers into the freezer, switched it off, turned off the light, and told them to remain calm. “When they came running down I opened the door of the fridge,” he told BMFTV, according to the Guardian. “Several came in with me. I turned off the light and the fridge. When I turned off the cold, I put them in. I closed the door. I told them to stay calm and I said ‘you stay quiet there, I’m going back out.’ ”

Bathily then managed to escape through a freight elevator. But police immediately thought he was a perpetrator. “They told me, ‘get down on the ground, hands over your head.’ They cuffed me and held me for an hour and a half as if I was with them,” he said. After police realized the mistake, he was freed and was able to help authorities with the layout of the store and detail where the people were hiding.

“When they came out, they congratulated me. They told me ‘thank you, really.’ I said ‘it’s nothing, that’s life,’ ” Bathily said, according to the Telegraph.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.