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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Unprovoked attacked near Philadelphia's Front and Girard

The Local Lens
Published• Wed, Aug 15, 2012

By Thom Nickels

An acquaintance of mine who works in real estate, and who takes the EL from Girard to work everyday, told me that he’s becoming increasingly uneasy at the feelings he gets while riding the train. At first I thought he was talking about the El’s mechanical glitches but then he corrected me and said that it was certain feelings he was picking up from passengers that’s causing him to worry.

"Oh, like feelings of tension, even anger?"

"Yes," he said.

The real estate guy, I decided, was talking about the beneath-the-surface unhappiness you see in far too many people these days. One can attribute this unhappiness to many things: the economy, the heat, joblessness, cuts in welfare, the high price of food, frustration at not being able to purchase more material goods. Anger at life—since life is not always fair or just—for some people means finding an explosive outlet, whether that be a mass killing at a Sheik temple in Wisconsin or a one-on-one kicking of somebody under a bus at Front and Girard.

To "throw under a bus," according to, means "to get a person in trouble either by placing blame on that person or not standing up for him." Then there’s the literal meaning of to throw under a bus, and that’s where my story comes in.

I witnessed a literal throwing last Wednesday evening while waiting for the Route 15. It began when I noticed an older man in a green "Irish" T-shirt and baseball cap walking erratically under the El while mumbling to himself. I couldn’t tell whether the man was slightly developmentally disabled or had had a few too many beers at the bar. I decided it was the former when the bus appeared on Girard and the man shouted, "We are all in luck people, the 15 bus is here!"

I’m familiar with the developmentally disabled. I had a younger brother who was diagnosed as "severe/profound" and who, at 28, had the mentality of a six year old. My parents had a hard time raising him because he would often throw violent temper tantrums in the house and in public as well. (In restaurants he would suddenly snap out and throw his food across the room.) While these behaviors were brought under control with medication, every family member was exposed to the reaction of the public when we took David outside the home. David was lucky in one respect because his mental disability was registered as severe/profound, making it easy for strangers to grasp the severity of the problem. High functioning mentally disabled people have it rough because their impairment is not always noticeable, meaning that insensitive people often jump to conclusions about their "stupidity" when something goes wrong.

Something did go wrong when the Irish T-shirt guy walked close to a hulking man in an inverted sailor hat. I heard some noise and turned to see the guy in the hat kick the little guy directly under the rear tire of the bus, and then push-kick the guy further under the vehicle. To me it looked like he was trying to kill him. The big guy kept kicking the little guy further under the bus and then he bent over and repeatedly punched him. A group of women began screaming and yelling "Stop," but that only seemed to anger the man in the hat. His kicks became more intense. When it looked as if he had had enough, he walked away from his victim only to return and kick him some more.

By now a sizeable crowd had gathered. The bus driver was now on the sidewalk talking on his cell to the police. Bystanders were calling the police as well.

Because the man in the hat was the size of Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk, nobody was willing to play hero and take him on. Unfortunately, none of the men present, including this reporter, were willing to be kicked under the bus and become victim #2. Everyone steered clear of him because it was obvious that he was out for blood. This was made abundantly clear when he retuned to the scene of the crime, ten minutes after leaving the scene of the beating, to inspect the damages.

He showed up to gloat and maybe do some more kicking one minute before police arrived.

When asked how the ruckus had started, the little man—who had bloody cuts on his face and a very bloody right ear—said that the man just walked straight towards him on the sidewalk like he was going to knock him over. The little man said he put his hand up as if to say, "Stop, don’t walk into me."

"I just put my hand up like this," the little man demonstrated, blood pouring out of his right ear.

By now an ambulance and a couple of patrol cars were on the scene, and the bus driver, who had a schedule to keep, announced that he was getting ready to leave. He and a few other passengers had intended to hang around in case the police needed witnesses but the process was dragging out. People wanted to get home for dinner.

Where would this little man be without witnesses? Kicked under the bus a second time? Fortunately, a group of us stayed behind as the Route 15 took off (we could catch the next bus). We opted to talk to police in case that was necessary.

It was necessary, as it turned out. We produced our ID’s and phone numbers for witness testimony.

When we saw the inverted sailor hat guy being handcuffed, we could barely contain our excitement. It’s not often in this day and age that one sees the successful administration of justice. Usually the perpetrator runs away and the victim is left to sort things out alone. But as Mr. Inverted sailor hat was led to a squad car, one witness mentioned that The Hulk was studying our faces as if committing them to memory

"Don’t even go there," another witness said, "We’ll be fine, even if he sees us six months down the line."

It pays to be positive about these things.