As the 26-year-old woman beaten on a public bus by nine middle school students was put into witness protection yesterday, conflicting accounts raised questions about whether the attack was racially motivated.
Maryland Transit Administration officials stood by their earlier statement that they are investigating the attack as a possible hate crime—though they did not release any specifics.
But the city state’s attorney’s office declined to confirm that prosecutors are looking at racial bias as a possible factor in the attack.
Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office, said prosecutors met with Kreager yesterday and reviewed the initial police reports and evidence gathered by the MTA police.
Based on the information that prosecutors received from MTA police and Kreager, Burns said she would not confirm that the investigation includes a review of possible hate crime violations. She said prosecutors could not confirm statements made by the MTA authorities, who alleged that a possible hate crime had occurred.
Nine versus one
MTA police said Kreager, who is white, was punched, kicked and dragged off the bus during the melee, which started about 3 p.m. Tuesday on the No. 27 bus in the 800 block of West 33rd Street.
The nine youths, who are African-American, are all 14 or 15 years old and attend Robert Poole Middle School in Hampden. They were released to their parents and charged as juveniles with aggravated assault and destruction of property.
Paul J. Wiedefeld, the MTA administrator, said the authorities are considering racial hostility as a possible motivation in the attack, but he also emphasized that the investigation is exploring other avenues.
“It’s one of the aspects of the case—racial bias—that we’re looking into, but it’s a number of things we’re looking into.”
MTA officials did not explain why they think race played a role in the incident.
In a written report, MTA police said the beating took place after one of the boys kept jumping in front of Kreager, claiming that the open seats on the bus were reserved. When Kreager finally found a seat, the teens began throwing punches at her and her boyfriend, according to the report. Police said her male companion, Troy Ennis, was also beaten, but not as severely.
A law enforcement source close to the investigation said yesterday that Kreager, who is homeless, has entered the state’s attorney’s office’s witness assistance program because officials are concerned for her safety.
Last night, Kreager told The Sun she does not think she did anything to antagonize the students.
Burns, with the state’s attorney’s office, said prosecutors are reviewing the law to determine whether the juveniles can be charged in the adult system.
“Prosecutors have not ruled out additional charges or charges under adult jurisdiction,” Burns said.
[Editors Note: The earlier AR News story on this attack can be read here.]