MTA Looks at Racial Role in City Bus Attack

Michael Dresser, Baltimore Sun, December 7, 2007

Maryland Transit Administration Police said last night that they have found no evidence that the severe beating of a 26-year-old woman on a city bus this week was provoked and that they are investigating the attack as a possible racially motivated hate crime.

Nine middle school students have been charged as juveniles with aggravated assault and destruction of property in the Tuesday afternoon attack on a woman and her male companion on the No. 27 bus.

Police said yesterday that they have determined that there were two additional victims in the case—a third passenger and the bus operator who came to his assistance.

Investigators were examining video from a surveillance camera on the bus but had not completed their analysis.

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MTA Northern District Capt. David Marzola said yesterday that the suspects could face additional charges after the emergence of new information about the attack, which occurred about 3 p.m. Tuesday in the 800 block of West 33rd Street.

Jawauna Greene, an MTA spokeswoman, confirmed that investigators were considering racial hostility as a potential motivation for the assault, which left the female victim, Sarah Kreager, 26, with broken facial bones and other injuries after she was punched, kicked and dragged off the bus. Her male companion, Troy Ellis, was also beaten, but not as severely.

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Greene said the suspects, who have been released to their parents, are African-American while the two originally identified victims are white. Marzola said the suspects are also believed to have menaced an elderly passenger, who is white, and to have assaulted the bus operator, an African-American male who defended his passenger.

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Police said no evidence had been found to back up the claims of suspects’ parents that Kreager or Ellis had provoked the incident by spitting or displaying a knife.

Greene said that at the time the incident reports were taken, no child reported any spitting or knife being pulled. Gavrilis said the operator hadn’t mentioned any provocation.

According to police, the operator’s response—to summon police first rather than immediately intervening—was exactly what he had been trained to do.

Police said Robert Poole Middle School, which the suspects attend, has not been a problem and that they believe Tuesday’s incident was the first involving the school this year. Gavrilis said the MTA Police have had an officer on that bus run since Tuesday and that the city schools’ police force has assigned extra officers to the Hampden school.

Greene, Gavrilis and Marzola said the assault was unusual for a bus system that this year has had no homicides, no rapes and no arsons. There was a non-fatal stabbing on an MTA bus last month in which police are still seeking a suspect, and Gavrilis recalled one non-fatal shooting in Westport last summer in which two suspects were arrested.

For the first nine months of 2007, police said, there have been only 381 crimes of any kind reported on its transit systems, which carry 250,000 riders a day. The vast majority, they said, are property crimes. The police were unable to produce detailed statistics yesterday to buttress their claim, but Gavrilis said he believes crime on the transit systems has been going down.

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