TAMPA, Fla. – A Marine reservist was charged with attacking a Greek Orthodox priest he mistook for a terrorist.
Jasen D. Bruce allegedly hit 29-year-old Alexios Marakis over the head with a tire iron and chased him for three blocks Monday evening before Tampa police officers intervened.
Marakis, a Greek Orthodox priest visiting from Crete, told police he had stopped to ask the 28-year-old reservist for help after getting lost in downtown Tampa. He had just performed a blessing of another priest and accidentally got off the highway.
Marakis approached Bruce as he was unloading his dry-cleaning, police said.
"Please, please help," Marakis said to Bruce in his limited English.
Bruce pulled out a tire iron and attacked the priest, police said. He then called 911 as he chased Marakis, saying an Arabic man was trying to rob him. When officers arrived, Bruce told them the man was a terrorist.
Bruce also told police he heard Marakis yell, "Allahu akbar!" — Arabic for "God is great," according to Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.
Marakis, however, does not speak Arabic, McElroy said. He speaks Greek.
Police are working to determine if the offense meets the standard for a hate crime.
Authorities could not immediately provide the name of Bruce's attorney.