When a truckload of young men drove past his apartment building hurling racial slurs and threats in his direction Friday night, Jay Phillips reacted the only way he knew how - by fighting the way his mother taught him.
They were yelling " 'we're gonna lynch you, we're gonna kill you, get out of our effing town.' I'd never seen these guys before in my life," said Mr. Phillips, who describes himself as half-black and half-white.
"So I called back 'eff you too.' They turned the truck around and got out and surrounded me with their fists up."
"They were saying 'this is a white town and you and your whole race aren't welcome here.' "
The confrontation and subsequent assault, filmed and posted on YouTube by an unidentified neighbour, shows three fit, young Caucasian males attacking Mr. Phillips in the parking lot of his Courtenay, B.C., apartment complex.
After taking turns swinging and missing for a minute or so, one of the attackers tries to kick Mr. Phillips, who deftly knocks him to the pavement.
All three men then jump Mr. Phillips, punching and kicking him as he lies on the ground in a fetal position. At several points, the attackers can be heard yelling racial slurs at him.
Mr. Phillips then struggles to his feet and fends off the assailants for another minute or so, landing a few punches before the three men jump in the truck and drive off.
Mr. Phillips, who escaped with two stitches above his right eye and a couple of bruised ribs, said Tuesday the incident is yet another example of the racism he's battled all his life, despite being a born and raised in B.C.
He said he remembered being four years old in preschool and his teacher telling him to shut up, using a racial epithet.
"From that moment on, I was changed," he said.
"My mother went and broke that teacher's nose."
Comox Valley RCMP Constable Tammy Douglas said Tuesday three men aged 19, 24 and 25 have been arrested and charged with assault in connection with the attack on Mr. Phillips.
One of the accused was arrested on the weekend, while the other two turned themselves in Tuesday, she said.
Police refused to release the names of the three men, saying the investigation was continuing and charges had yet to be forwarded to the Crown. Investigators are considering adding a hate-crime designation but that would not change the fundamental nature of the charges, Constable Douglas said.
"They will still be charged with assault. But if it's a hate crime they might get a stiffer sentence," she said.
"There's elements of the offence that appear to be racially motivated, but that determination won't be made until all the evidence has been collected."
Comox Valley officers investigating the case are "liaising" with the RCMP's B.C. hate crime team, Constable Douglas added.
Witness Heather Zygarlicki, a resident of the building, said the men were "definitely making racial remarks" during the attack.
"We went out when we heard the commotion and we were yelling at the guys to get lost," Ms. Zygarlicki said. "We're all disgusted by it, that's for sure."
While others would have run away, Mr. Phillips said he's had a "hard life" and learned how to stand up for himself along the way.
"When four guys surround you with their hands and fists, that to me is go-time," said Mr. Phillips, who has taken some mixed martial arts training.
"There's a lot of young kids like me out there and I don't want this to happen to any of them. I want everybody to know, we completely will not tolerate this kind of thing."
Special to The Globe and Mail