For Greg Williams, lending a helping hand is second nature. So, on Tuesday, when a stranger asked to keep warm inside his Mt. Airy bookstore as he waited for his aunt, he obliged.
The encounter, however, soon went awry.
Once inside the Devon Street shop, located at SEPTA’s Mt. Airy Station, Williams said the well-spoken, well-dressed man hovered at the front of the store where a tip jar with small change is kept. While there, Williams said the man – who told him his aunt would be arriving on the next train – asked for a glass of water and a Band-Aid in order to, in his estimation, get him to leave the room.
“That put up my antennae,” said Williams.
When the train arrived and the man did not meet his aunt, Williams asked him to go. The man refused. Williams said he explained that store hours had ended for the day. The man told him, ‘No, I’m not going to leave.’ “
Eventually, Williams told the stranger that he would call the police if he didn’t hit the road. The man still didn’t budge.
The incident, which, according to police, occurred around 6:19 p.m., then took turn a violent turn.
When Williams began calling 911, the man slugged him in the jaw and took off running. “I didn’t even see the punch coming,” he said.
On Thursday, Williams noted that his jaw is still sore, but that his dentist has told him his mouth is otherwise okay.
No money or items were taken from the store.
The bookstore has seen some “snatch and grab” thefts in the past, said Williams, but never with any kind of physical violence. There also have been a few break-ins at night.
“We really trust people and when someone asks for help, we help. This is very discouraging,” he lamented.
Police describe the suspect as a thinly-built black man, possibly 18 to 25 years old, that’s six-feet and weighs around 160 pounds. The man, who has a light beard and short cropped hair, was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and dark pants the night of the incident.