Hijab-Wearing Mother and Daughter Attacked by Man in Mall Parking Lot

A man has been charged after a "hate-motivated" attack on a Muslim mother and daughter in a mall parking lot in Canada, police said.

The assault took place in the parking lot of the Southgate center in Edmonton on Tuesday afternoon.

Richard Bradley Stevens, 41, allegedly approached two Somali women sitting in their vehicle at around 3.40 p.m. and began yelling racial abuse at them, Edmonton Police said in a news release.

Police said the mother and her adult daughter were both wearing hijabs—a head covering used by some Muslim women.

Eyewitnesses told police the man punched the passenger-side window, causing it to shatter.

"Fearing for her safety, the passenger then ran from the vehicle," police said in the statement. "The male ran after the complainant, pushed her to the ground and began assaulting her."

The other woman was also shoved to the ground by the suspect after attempting to assist. Several people intervened and stopped the attack, according to police.

Police said officers arrived at the scene shortly afterwards and took Stevens into custody.

Stevens, of Edmonton, is charged with two counts of assault and one count of mischief.

"The attack on these women is horrific and our hearts go out to them," Sgt. Gary Willits, of the Edmonton Police Service's Hate Crime and Violent Extremism Unit, said. "These individuals were targeted due to their race, therefore making this a hate-motivated crime."

He added that police were using Section 718.2 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which allows courts to consider increased sentencing.

Willits told CTV News Edmonton that Stevens was known to the police department, but not in relation to any hate crimes.

He added the women were "extremely rattled" and had feared for their lives. "They were fearful. They thought they were going to die. And it just kept escalating," he said.

He said he was concerned that the attack would make women in the city's Somali community feel unsafe.

"I would assume other women in the Somali community tonight, they're probably sitting there thinking, you know, 'Am I safe in my own city?'

"I want people to know that Edmonton is a great city. It's a strong city. We do stand up for each other," he said.

Willits added that although police do not want bystanders to put themselves in harm's way, "if there's an opportunity where you can render aid and help that person, by all means you gotta find that balance yourself."

A billboard in Quebec reading "To each his own religion" shows the face of a young woman wearing a hijab. Two women in hijabs were attacked by a man in an Edmonton parking lot. Anne Levasseur/AFP via Getty Images