The number of students victimized by a group of teenagers could be as high as seven after two students have come forward in the wake of recent off-campus attacks and police have connected two other incidents to three teens arrested last week.
A 21-year-old senior journalism major and a 19-year-old freshman theater major, whose names are being withheld to protect their identities, said they experienced incidents this past fall similar to the ones that occurred west of Main Campus on Friday, March 21, that prompted indignation from the Philadelphia community and a promise from the university to review off-campus patrolling policies.
The two students, both female, said they were approached on separate occasions by a group of African-American girls who appeared to be between 13-15 years old. One student said she was harassed while walking home west of Main Campus late at night and another said she was beaten by a group of 10-15 attackers at a party on Gratz Street and later had to be hospitalized.
A report on that attack was filed to the Philadelphia Police Department in October and three teenagers have been charged. Reached by phone Monday, a detective in the department said police haven’t ruled out the possibility of a connection between that incident and the ones that occurred two weeks ago, where a group of female African-American teenagers assaulted four Temple students in three separate incidents within a half-hour span in the evening.
In each of those incidents, students said they were the victims of physical assaults. One student, a 19-year-old woman, was hospitalized and required jaw reconstructive surgery after being hit in the face with a brick.
Last week, police arrested three teens in connection to the attacks who will be tried as adults. Najee Bilaal, 16, Zaria Estes, 15, and Kanesha Gainey, 15, were charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy, possession of an instrument of crime, terroristic threats, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.
Minors over the age of 15 are subject to be tried as adults in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania if they’re charged with one of 10 crimes, including the use of a deadly weapon and aggravated assault, according to the Juvenile Law Center.
Bail for both Estes and Bilaal has been set for $100,000 and at $75,000 for Gainey.
Detective Ralph Domenic said the girls admitted to not only the attacks from two weeks ago, but also to an attempted robbery of a 20-year-old Temple student on the 1700 block of 15th street on March 24.
The three suspects have also been connected to the robbery of a 16-year-old girl on 15th and Market streets on March 17, resulting in a stolen cell phone, Domenic said.
Whether or not the suspects are connected to the two other incidents from the fall, Domenic couldn’t say. One of the two incidents was never reported to Philadelphia police.
“We haven’t tied [the suspects] into any other old jobs, but now we’re looking into it,” Domenic said.
The 21-year-old student said she was walking home alone last September around midnight to her apartment in Kardon/Atlantic when she noticed a group of girls start to follow her, maintaining an approximate 10-foot distance behind her around 16th and Berks streets.
“I started feeling my legs get hit by rocks and they were probably about the size of my palm,” the student said. “I turned around and they had these calm, blank looks on their faces.”
The woman said she asked the group of three, who she said were between the ages of 13-15, to stop, to which they responded, “I’m sorry, but you have pretty hair.”
She said when she reached Broad Street, she reported the incident to a Temple security guard. Concerned about getting home, the woman left without filing a report, but said she saw the security guard approach the group of girls.
The 19-year-old student said she was attacked a month later on the night of Oct. 18 on the 1800 block of North Gratz Street. The woman told The Temple News in October that she was dragged by her hair, punched and beaten by a group of 10-15 attackers, who she said all appeared to be juveniles.
The incident sent her to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where she was discharged by 5 a.m. She has been to four court hearings testifying against three teens and is expected to attend another hearing in the upcoming weeks.
“I felt like maybe I had more anxiety problems before than I ever had,” she said. “Especially if I went outside.”
The woman said she sees similarities between her incident and the four that occurred on March 21.
“There were probably 10 to 15 girls that were on me, so I couldn’t identify them all,” she said. “I think it’s a large possibility they’re from the same group.”
The student said she believes the March 21 attacks could have been prevented had her story gained more attention.
“I don’t want it to be a sympathy thing,” she said. “I want it to be a [question of], ‘Why can’t we help prevent off-campus attacks?’”
Patricia Madej can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @PatriciaMadej.