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St. Petersburg Times/Jamal Thalji—A Marine reservist armed with a tire iron beat and chased a man he thought was an Arab terrorist and even called 911 to say he was detaining the man, police said.
Marine reservist Jasen Bruce charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
But the man he assaulted was actually a Greek Orthodox priest visiting from overseas who spoke limited English, police said.
That’s why police arrested reservist Jasen D. Bruce on a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Police said they’re also investigating whether Bruce, 28, committed a hate crime.
The incident took place around 6:35 p.m. Monday, police said. The priest, Alexios Marakis, 29, is from Crete, Greece. He is visiting St. Nicholas Greek Cathedral at 17 E Tarpon Ave. but police said he was in the Westshore area to bless another retired Greek priest.
But Marakis apparently got lost and exited northbound Interstate 275 into downtown Tampa, police said.
Lance Cpl. Jasen D. Bruce, seen with his wife Nichole, is accused of attacking the Rev. Alexios Marakis, 29, of Crete, Greece.
The priest followed several cars into the Seaport Channelside Apartments on Twiggs Street. He got out of his car and asked Bruce for help.
Instead of offering help, Bruce struck the priest on the head with a tire iron, police said.
He then chased the priest for three blocks to the Madison Avenue and Meridian Avenue, police said, and even called 911 to say that an Arabic man tried to rob him.
Bruce said he was going to take the Arab into custody. When police arrived, Bruce told them the victim was a terrorist.
The priest was taken to Tampa General Hospital. There, a translator helped Marakis speak to police.
SunCoastNews/Josh Poltilove—In a 911 call, Bruce made a derogatory comment about a man he said was a terrorist and was trying to rob him and had grabbed him in a sexual manner, police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.
The Rev. Alexios Marakis, 29, of Crete, Greece, is carried to an ambulance after being beaten
When officers arrived, police say, Bruce told them he heard the man say “Allahu Akbar” – Arabic for “God is great.”
“That’s what they say before they blow you up,” Bruce said, according to police.
But at a news conference today, Bruce’s attorney said his client didn’t understand what Marakis said.
“Lance Cpl. Bruce defended himself with the full legality of the law for being sexually attacked and potentially robbed,” lawyer Jeffrey Brown said.
Bruce, 28, faces a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He was released on $7,500 bail.
McElroy said Bruce “teared up when we told him that (Marakis) was a Greek Orthodox priest and not a terrorist.”
Marakis, 29, was treated at Tampa General Hospital and released. He told investigators he’s visiting St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs.
Rev. Alexios Marakis at St. Gregory the Theologian Parish in Mansfield, MA 2007
Marakis declined to comment today, saying he does not speak much English. The Rev. Michael Eaccarino of St. Nicholas said Marakis is doing well.
Before deciding whether the incident qualifies as a hate crime, police will determine whether Bruce’s motive was based on a belief that Marakis was Arabic.
The Marines Reserve will wait for the investigation to conclude before taking any action, an official said.
In 2007, Bruce was accused of pushing a tow truck driver in the back and chest when his Jaguar was about to be towed, records show. Bruce told police the truck driver had grabbed him to stop him getting in his car.
Alexios Marakis Assaulted: Greek Orthodox Priest Attacked By Marine Reservist In Fit Of Anti-Muslim Hysteria
Marine reservist chases, assaults Greek Orthodox priest who he mistook for an Arab terrorist
Greek priest seeking help is assaulted as ‘Arab terrorist‘