Philly DA files charges against teens for attack of Asian students on SEPTA train

SEPTA police said the suspects involved in a violent assault involving students on the Broad Street Line are multiple charges, including ethnic intimidation. (6abc)

SEPTA police said the suspects involved in a violent assault involving students on the Broad Street Line are multiple charges, including ethnic intimidation. (6abc)

Philadelphia’s District Attorney filed charges against four teens, a day after a racist attack against four Asian high school students on the Broad Street Line, a spokesperson said.

The accused teens are between the ages of 13 and 16. They’re charged with multiple counts of aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation, criminal conspiracy, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and disorderly conduct. One is also charged with robbery for trying to steal a victim’s AirPods, said Jane Roh, communications director in the Office of District Attorney Larry Krasner, in a new release Thursday evening.

The DA’s office is not releasing the names of the defendants because of their age. The case will go through the juvenile justice system.

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The incident was caught on SEPTA surveillance cameras Wednesday. In one of the videos, the attackers can be heard calling the victims racist slurs, SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel said during a press conference Thursday afternoon.

One teenage girl appeared to hit and drag another teenage girl to the ground. Others joined in beating and stomping on the girl while she was down. The victim’s three friends appeared to shield themselves from more punches.

Anti-Asian incidents have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reported hate crimes against people of Asian descent rose 76% in 2020 according to an FBI report.

Nestel said SEPTA was installing an escort service for students at Olney Station Thursday, with a police officer to be stationed at the stop daily and police available to ride the SEPTA with students if they want.

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All four victims attend Central High School. One was defending someone who was being bullied, according to representatives of the School District of Philadelphia.

“For her to be so brave and willing to do what she felt was necessary to defend another student is very honorable,” Monica Lewis, a spokesperson for the district, said Thursday. “It’s unfortunate that she was treated in such a way, because she really did something that we expect all of us to do — when you see someone being mistreated or you see someone being harmed, you don’t just stand by. You try to help them.”

Councilmember Helen Gym, the first Asian American woman to serve on the Philadelphia City Council, spoke with the girl’s mother and called the girl a “hero.”

But Gym said the incident reflects the level of trauma and violence happening across Philadelphia, and lack of support for the city’s children — who are living through the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid epidemic,  gun violence and economic problems.

“It’s heart wrenching to see young people at such a young age harming one another,” she said. “But I will underscore time and again that they are witnessing violence at an unprecedented level across our city and we are not doing nearly enough for children right now in helping them deal with the trauma and harm that has been caused to them.”

The school district sent additional support staff to Central, Lewis said. School leaders met with students and members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, including parents, to hear their concerns.

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