It is ‘simply not true’ that witnesses took cellphone videos of train rape instead of calling police, district attorney in Philadelphia says

Riders walk past SEPTA’s Market Frankford Line stop at 15th Street in Philadelphia. — The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS

PHILADELPHIA: The Delaware County district attorney on Oct 21 said it was “simply not true” that Septa (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) passengers last week took cellphone videos of a man raping a woman on the train instead of deciding to intervene or call police.

Jack Stollsteimer, the county’s top prosecutor, said that although one person did take video of part of the longer overall interaction between the accused assailant, Fiston Ngoy, 35, and the victim, it was incorrect to suggest that groups of bystanders on the train were “callously sitting there filming (the rape) and didn’t act”, the prosecutor said.

“People in this region are not, in my experience, so inhuman and callous... that they’re going to sit there and just watch this happen and videotape it – as one journalist said today – for their own private enjoyment,” Stollsteimer said.

The announcement came a day after Stollsteimer said his office would not criminally charge passengers who did not intervene or call police after seeing the assault because state law “does not allow for the prosecution of a passenger who may have witnessed a crime”.

Stollsteimer reiterated that assertion Thursday, and added that Ngoy and the victim were seated next to each other for more than a half hour before the assault began. As a result, the video captured several passengers getting on and off the train who likely had no idea what was happening between Ngoy and the victim, he said.

“This is the El, guys, we’ve all ridden it. People get off and on at every single stop,” Stollsteimer said. “That doesn’t mean when they get on and they see people interacting that they know a rape is occurring.”

Police said in the initial aftermath of the crime that as the victim was being raped on a westbound train Oct 13 around 10pm, several other passengers not only looked on, but also appeared to point their smartphones toward the assault as it unfolded. Yet the only person to call 911, they said, was an off-duty Septa employee.

Septa Transit Police officers arrived three minutes after that call, authorities said, allowing them to interrupt the assault and arrest Ngoy.

Upper Darby police and Septa officials afterward expressed frustration while saying that riders should have taken steps to report the assault.

Stollsteimer on Thursday declined to blame police for advancing a false narrative. But in addition to expressing frustration with the media’s coverage of the incident, he did say that Septa officials – whom he did not name – “talked about ‘these people’, acting like there was a group of people just callously recording this incident. That’s simply not true. And it’s contradicted by the videotape, the security tape, that Septa has already provided.”

Charging documents say the victim – who told police she’d had a few beers after work – mistakenly boarded a westbound train at 9.15pm at the Frankford Transportation Center. Ngoy entered the train about a minute later, the documents say, and began talking to her and sat next to her.

The documents say Ngoy sat near the woman for more than a half hour, during which time she can be seen on surveillance video repeatedly pushing Ngoy away as he attempted to touch her and at one point grabbed her breast. Video shows that “the victim is obviously struggling with keeping him off of her”, investigators wrote.

At 9.52, the documents say, Ngoy raped the woman. The assault lasted about six minutes.

Ngoy was taken into custody by responding Septa officers after the train pulled into the 69th Street stop in Upper Darby.

He later told investigators he’d seen the woman before, that she initiated the sexual encounter and that she did not resist his advances. The victim told police she had never seen Ngoy before and hadn’t given him permission to touch her.

Separately on Thursday, Stollsteimer also announced that another man had been charged in a sexual assault that happened Wednesday evening at the 69th Street station, a week after the assault involving Ngoy.

In that case, according to charging documents, a woman approached Edwin Allen, 28, of Philadelphia, around 5.30 and asked him how she could get to another side of the station. Allen offered to accompany her, the documents say, and as they were walking, he began grabbing and groping her before pushing her into a secluded area, pulling his pants down, and attempting to pull her pants down.

A passerby heard the woman yelling “rape,” the documents say, and – after seeing the assault in progress – also began yelling at Allen to stop.

A Septa transit officer who heard screaming responded and took Allen into custody, the documents say. Allen was charged with attempted sexual assault and two counts of indecent assault, the documents say. – The Philadelphia Inquirer/Tribune News Service

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