Calgary mother in disbelief after she says her and her son were threatened with being set on fire

A Calgary mother is still in disbelief after she and her son were approached by a man who she said threatened to set them on fire.

Kerri Singh and her 14-year-old son were walking towards the TD bank on 8 Avenue and 8 Street S.W. on Friday at around 5:30 p.m., when she said a man came up to them carrying a plastic bottle and a lighter.

“He said: ‘I’m not kidding.’ He pulled a gasoline container in my face, very close. I could smell it,” Singh said. “He said, ‘who’s going to get lit first?… This is gasoline and I’m going to start you on fire.’”

Thinking quickly, Singh said she pulled her son behind her and attempted to diffuse the situation.

“I told him we are from Canada,” Singh said. “Because my son wears a patka, he is Sikh.

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“He totally transformed as I said we are from Canada. When I said we were born and raised in Canada, his whole demeanour changed.”

patka is a smaller version of a Sikh turban that is usually worn by boys and teens before they begin wearing a turban.

Read more: Alberta cabinet minister’s daughter says she was victim of hate attack in Calgary: ‘I just was terrified’

Singh said the man continued yelling at other visible minority individuals who were on the balcony of a nearby apartment. She said she tried to call 911 but she couldn’t get through because of the Rogers outage. Then, the mother and son ran inside the bank to call for help.

Singh said the man went back to his vehicle in a nearby alley where she added he had a jerry can of gasoline.

Police said they believe the man threw gas in the face of another man who was in the alley.

“In the meantime, other people gathered at the corner and they said they witnessed somebody else — a security guard at the other building — that had actually been doused with gasoline,” Singh said

Police took the man into custody shortly after and transported him to hospital for a mental health assessment.

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Singh said she feels terrible for saying she was Canadian as a defence, but added that it did seem to help her and her son out of a potentially dangerous situation.

“I didn’t realize that things like this could happen in Calgary, especially when I have a son who is a visible minority,” she said.

“I feel for anyone who is out there that is a visible minority. It makes me afraid for them because of the rage that is out there. His rage was so intense.”

Read more: Calgary police investigate hate-motivated assault downtown

Both Singh and her husband Ron feel this should be pursued as a hate crime.

“When she said she had to use the words, ‘we are Canadian’ to un-trigger this gentleman from doing what he was attempting to do, it just blows my mind,” Ron said.

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