"Appalled": Woman raped on Philly train -- and no one intervened

(The Daily News via AP, File)

Someone “should have done something,” Upper Darby police superintendent Timothy Bernhardt told reporters. Ya think? Instead, several bystanders stood around while a homeless man first groped a woman and then tore her clothes off and raped her.

No one even bothered to call 911 until a police officer boarded the car and did it himself. By that time, the spectators had sat around and watched for eight full minutes:

As a woman was being raped while on a train near Philadelphia on Wednesday night, riders watched, failed to intervene and did not call 911, the authorities said.

A man whom officials identified as Fiston Ngoy sat down next to a woman at about 10 p.m. on a train that was traveling westbound on the Market-Frankford Line toward the 69th Street Transportation Center. Mr. Ngoy “attempted to touch her a few times,” said Andrew Busch, a spokesman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, known as SEPTA.

The woman pushed back and tried to stop Mr. Ngoy from touching her, Mr. Busch said. “Then, unfortunately, he proceeded to rip her clothes off,” Mr. Busch said on Sunday.

The assault lasted about eight minutes, and no passengers in the train car intervened, the authorities said.

Bernhardt said he was “appalled” at the lack of intervention by the people on the train:

The entire episode was captured on surveillance video that showed other people on the train at the time, Bernhardt said.

“There was a lot of people, in my opinion, that should have intervened; somebody should have done something,” Bernhardt said. “It speaks to where we are in society; I mean, who would allow something like that to take place? So it’s troubling.” …

SEPTA issued a statement calling it a “horrendous criminal act” and urging anyone witnessing such a thing to report it to authorities.

“There were other people on the train who witnessed this horrific act, and it may have been stopped sooner if a rider called 911,” the authority said.

The NYT raises the possibility that a few of the bystanders actually did do something — recorded it on cell phones. If so, that might land them in legal trouble themselves, although the lack of a Good Samaritan law will otherwise prevent them from being prosecuted for a lack of response:

Bystanders on the train who failed to intervene could be criminally charged if they recorded the attack, Mr. Bernhardt said, adding that it would be up to the Delaware County district attorney’s office to make such a decision after the police finish their investigation and submit their findings.

It was not immediately clear what those charges could be, and Mr. Bernhardt said he did not want to speculate. He added that Pennsylvania does not have a good Samaritan law and said it would be “very difficult to bring charges against those” who witnessed the attack but did not intervene.

Police might have to provide a few answers, too. Apparently, this isn’t the first time that Ngoy has come to their attention, CBS’ Philadelphia affiliate reported over the weekend:

“Were they watching? I don’t know. Again, we’re still going through the video but there was a lot of people, in my opinion, that should’ve intervened. Somebody should’ve done something. It speaks to where we are in society. Who would allow something like that to take place? So it’s troubling but again, we’re working on that and we’re trying to identify anyone that we saw coming on and off the El at that time,” Upper Darby Police Superintendent Tim Bernhardt said.

A police officer on his beat later found the suspect on the train partially clothed near the victim and took action.

People who rode the El were stunned to learn about the disturbing details.

“They need more security, they really do. They really need a lot of security because it’s getting bad out here. You can’t even get on the bus,” Shawn Brown said.

They need more than just security. They need a populace that looks out for one another, with enough “brotherly love” to intervene in this kind of sick attack rather than pretend it isn’t happening. People complain about rising crime rates, and for good reason — but at least these bystanders don’t care enough about it to lift a finger to do anything about it. Literally.

This case recalls the Kitty Genovese murder in New York City nearly sixty years ago. At the time of the murder in March 1964, the New York Times reported that 37 people heard or saw Genovese (pictured in the post thread) screaming for help while being stabbed to death outside her apartment in Queens, a murder that took over a half hour. Decades later, the NYT retreated from those claims, saying that they couldn’t verify the number of people who heard or saw the murder, but the point was that some certainly did — and didn’t even bother to call the police, let alone come to Genovese’s rescue.

At least in Genovese’s case, the attack took place in a vestibule of an apartment building, almost entirely out of public view. This rape took place on public transportation, in full view of — and close proximity to — the passengers in the car. Doing nothing in that situation is an incredibly cruel and selfish act. In an era where everyone carries a cell phone, none of them could even be bothered to call the police with the assault unfolding before their eyes. Utterly disgusting.