Ethnic intimidation, assault and related charges filed against teen girls in viral SEPTA attack

The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office approved charges against four teenage girls authorities say were involved in a racially motivated attack on a subway train Wednesday. 

The teens face aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation, criminal conspiracy, simple assault and related charges. One teen has been charged with an additional count of robbery for the attempted theft of one of the victim's AirPods.

Video of the incident surfaced on social media Wednesday and appeared to show a group of teenage girls accosting another group of teens and attacking a teenage girl who attempted to intervene. 

The video shows the teens hitting the girl and smashing her head against the door of the train. The beating continues while the victim lies defenseless on the ground, and one of the attackers is seen using her shoe to strike the teen. 

Around 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, SEPTA Transit Police say the female victim approached officers on patrol and alerted them that she, among others, had been assaulted on a train car that was heading southbound from Olney. 

The officer had the victim taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for a laceration.

SEPTA investigators say they immediately began searching through surveillance footage to identify the suspects. Photos of the potential suspects were sent out to officers on patrol a short time after the attack. 

Within an hour, SEPTA Transit Police Chief Thomas Nestel says an officer spotted and stopped two of the suspects at Olney Station. The officer verified their identification and released them to their parents pending further investigation. 


Thursday morning, police were able to locate other victims from Central High School, as well as two other suspects. Police say there was one female victim and three male victims. 

"This was an attack based on ethnicity, and ethnic slurs were used by the attackers," Nestel said during a press conference Thursday. He added the attack was otherwise ‘unprovoked.' 

Nestel says his department was flooded with calls offering support and resources after the video went viral on social media. 

Police say a mother of one of the suspects also called and reported her daughter as being one of the suspects after she saw the video on social media. 

Nestel also applauded the female victim for her efforts to intervene. 

"She was a hero," Nestel said. "She stepped up and told the girls to stop saying what they were saying. She then became a target. Just truly heroic, courageous." 

FOX 29's Steve Keeley reports that the group of teens first targeted a group of Asian male students aboard an express train in Olney on Tuesday. Sources tell FOX 29, the members of the attacking group are alleged to have hurled racial slurs at the Asian teens from Central High School and dumped a smoothie on them Tuesday - one day prior to the incident that was caught on video.

"I'm appalled by yesterday's assault involving students on the Broad Street Line. Those involved in the assault have been identified and will be held accountable. I want our residents to know that we will not tolerate any acts of hate," Mayor Jim Kenney said.


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