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Police: Bystanders saw but didn’t stop assault

Pennsylvania transit authorities give a news conference on last week’s assault. Associated Press/Photo by Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer

Police: Bystanders saw but didn’t stop assault

Police arrested a man on a commuter train a week ago just outside Philadelphia and charged him with rape. According to an arrest affidavit, Fiston Ngoy, 35, sat beside a woman on the train and harassed her for more than 40 minutes. At a Monday news conference, police said surveillance video showed Ngoy groped and raped the woman while other passengers held phones pointed in the woman’s direction. No 911 calls came from witnesses in Philadelphia. Police responded within three minutes of a transit employee’s call and pulled Ngoy off after he had allegedly been harassing the woman for more than 24 train stops. Fox News reported Tuesday, citing court documents, that Ngoy is a Congolese immigrant who overstayed his student visa and had a criminal record. The U.S. put him in immigration detention in 2018 but released him the following year.

Why didn’t someone say something? Sexual violence experts say it is rare but concerning that groups in public did not intervene. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority reminded passengers about emergency buttons on every train car and urged people to call 911 for any suspicious activity. The transit police chief said commuters should be “angry and disgusted” and “resolute about making the system safer.” Authorities are looking for any video footage of the encounter from witnesses. A passenger who filmed but did not report could face charges from the district attorney’s office. 

Dig deeper: From the WORLD archives, read D.C. Innes’ column about cruel public crimes.

Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a reporter for WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College graduate. She resides in Harrisburg, Pa.



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My Two Cents

I’m not trying to second guess the situation, or blame the victim, but if someone was harassing me on a commuter train, I would move away if I could, call 911 myself, and certainly scream my fool head off. Was the woman bound and gagged? Whatever, the City of Brotherly Love needs a new name. I am appalled that nobody did anything. For shame!

not silentMy Two Cents

I wasn't there, obviously; but I know from unfortunate personal experience that it's not always possible to scream or move away during an assault. A person who has previously experienced assault may instinctively freeze instead of fighting or fleeing. Perps often take advantage of this by deliberately choosing the location, the victim (I.e., someone who seems less likely to fight), and the way they carry out the assault. In this case, the perp was probably emboldened by the fact that no bystanders intervened.

not silent

I'm not sure I would feel particularly safe if the average citizen pulled out a gun on a crowded commuter train, even if it was to threaten someone who was committing a crime. There were several other ways this could have been addressed with less risk to innocent bystanders, such as calling 911 or using the emergency buttons. It's rather disturbing that so many people FILMED the incident but no one REPORTED it.


I'm gonna assume this happened in a non concealed carry state?


I'm reminded of the killing of Kitty Genovese and the indifference of neighbors who watched it from their windows above. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for GOOD MEN to do .. nothing.