Philadelphia police have arrested a 36-year-old man for allegedly assaulting a WHYY producer and his girlfriend in Fishtown on June 1 — the day a vigilante-style mob of mostly white men gathered outside the police district with baseball bats.
Fishtown resident George Graf, who has a history of violence, was arrested at home on Thursday. He is charged with aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy to engage in aggravated assault, which are both felonies, as well as simple assault and reckless endangerment.
Jane Roh, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, said additional charges may be filed against him, but declined to elaborate.
“This is very much an active investigation,” she said.
At least three people were assaulted by members of the group, which said they gathered along Girard Avenue to protect police, after some officers had warned them looters were coming.
A spokesperson said the Philadelphia Police Department has not yet identified any other suspects, but is continuing to investigate the violent incident, which has put neighbors on edge and raised questions about why officers apparently allowed the armed group to roam the busy commercial corridor for hours, even after a citywide curfew took effect.
WHYY producer Jon Ehrens, who was not on assignment for the station at the time of the incident, said three or four men attacked him on nearby Thompson Street after they noticed him recording them with his smartphone.
The men also shoved Ehrens’ girlfriend.
An ambulance took Ehrens to the hospital, where he was treated for a broken nose and a broken maxilla, a bone that shapes part of the lower eye socket. His left eye was also swollen shut.
Ehrens declined to comment on the arrest.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said Graf was identified with the help of video and photographic evidence, as well as eyewitness interviews.
“This is someone who frankly has a violent record in two different counties and has shown during his life a willingness to be involved in the serious injuring of people,” said Krasner.
In 2005, Graf pleaded guilty to simple assault in Philadelphia. He was convicted of the same charge in connection to a 2007 incident in Bucks County.
Fishtown resident Matthew Williams was also attacked on June 1.
He said one of the men threw him off his bike, then kicked and punched him in the face before threatening him with a bat while he and others loomed over him as he lay on the ground, bleeding.
Williams said he was approached after being separated from his girlfriend, who stopped her bike after one of the men tried to hit the couple with full water bottles. This after they mistakenly thought the group was part of the Justice for George Floyd protests, and raised their fists in solidarity.
The couple has given statements to prosecutors about the alleged attack. No charges have been filed yet.
Krasner on Thursday did not rule out the possibility of more arrests in connection to the vigilante gathering in Fishtown.
“Anyone who was out there assaulting people should be worried,” he said.
Mayor Jim Kenney has said it was a “mistake” for police to tolerate the group for as long as they did.
During the same news conference, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said her department does not “endorse or condone any form of vigilante justice,” adding that it did not ask the group for protection that night.
“I didn’t ask them to do that. I don’t welcome that. I don’t invite them to come back. And we don’t need them, said Outlaw.
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