Philadelphia Subway Riders Witnessed Rape but Did Nothing, Police Say

By Reuters
Reuters
Reuters
October 19, 2021 Updated: October 19, 2021

The rape of a woman aboard a Philadelphia subway witnessed by as many as 10 passengers, some of whom appeared to film the attack, could have been stopped quickly if one had called 911, police said on Tuesday.

The woman was raped shortly after 9 p.m. on Oct. 13 on a train run by Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), which provides public transportation in Philadelphia, SEPTA Transit Police Chief Thomas Nestel III said.

“As many as 10 people actually saw some part of the attack on this rider,” Nestel said on Philadelphia radio station WPHT.

Describing police review of surveillance video, Nestel said, “We were watching to see if somebody put a phone up to their ear indicating they might be calling 911. Instead, what we saw was people holding their phone up as if they were recording or taking pictures.”

SEPTA Transit Police
SEPTA Transit Police Chief Thomas Nestel III, seen through window at left, stands by following a news conference on an El platform at the 69th Street Transportation Center in Philadelphia, Pa., on Oct. 18, 2021. (Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

SEPTA issued a statement calling it a “horrendous criminal act” and urged anyone witnessing such a thing to report it to authorities by calling 911, pressing an emergency button on every train car, or using the authorities emergency safety app.

“It may have been stopped sooner if a rider called 911,” SEPTA spokesman John Golden said in a statement.

SEPTA and the Upper Darby Police Department, which is investigating the incident, did not immediately confirm other details of the incident reported by local media.

Surveillance video from the train car showed the woman attempted to rebuff her attacker, repeatedly pushing him away as he initially groped her and ultimately sexually assaulted her, local media reported.

One person finally alerted 911. It was that call by an off-duty SEPTA employee that quickly brought transit police onboard, allowing them to stop the assault and arrest the alleged rapist, SEPTA police said.

“He was on top of our victim and committing the assault when they entered the train,” Nestel said.

Fiston Ngoy, 35, faces charges of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, and other offenses, local media reported. Ngoy, who listed his address as a homeless shelter in Philadelphia, was held on $18,000 bail and was scheduled for an Oct. 25 court hearing, local media reported.

Ngoy claims the encounter was consensual, but the woman denies that, local media reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Reuters