Thursday, April 25, 2013

An Ugly Scene

From Paul:

On April 17, at about 8:30 p.m., I entered the Potomac Ave. Metro stop.  As I walked down the escalator to the platform, I heard the scream of a little girl.  I quickly walked past a dozen or so passengers waiting for their train, seemingly oblivious to the death cry from this young girl.

About halfway down the platform, I saw a woman with two young children -- maybe 7 and 4 years old -- sitting on a concrete bench.  With an open hand and her forearm, she attacked the older child over her face and head, again and again.  The girl screamed and tears streamed down her face.

I ran over to the woman.  "Stop," I yelled.  "You're beating your child!"

The woman stopped and looked up at me.  "This is none of your business," she huffed, pushing her child away from her.

"Yes it is my business.  You cannot hit your child."

"Well," she said, "I am teaching her a lesson."

"I don't care," I told her.  "It's one thing to spank her on the butt, but this is different.  This is abuse."

"I can deal with my child however I want."

"No you can't," I told her, my voice straining.  "It is illegal to hit your child."

"No it's not," she responded.

I turned away from the woman and ran down the platform, past the dozen obvious people, up the escalator, and to the manager's station.  I knocked on the window and went around to the door.  The station manager opened it.

"This woman down there is beating her child," I told him, nearly out of breath.

"I thought I heard a girl screaming," he said.

The manger walked out of his booth and I followed him as he walked down the escalator and towards the woman.  At that point, a train heading into town pulled up and the doors opened.

"That's her," I told the manager, pointing to the woman with the two children.  "She's getting on the train."

We jogged to the door, where we were joined by another Metro employee.  She asked what was going on and I quickly explained the situation.  The manager signaled to the train driver to stop, but either the driver did not see the signal or he did not care, because the doors began to close.

I quickly stepped onto the train, along with the other Metro employee.  She punched the emergency call button near us and spoke into the radio -- I don't know what she said, but shortly after, the train departed towards Capitol South.

Looking at the woman with her two children, I explained in further detail about what I had seen.  I pleaded with her to alert Metro police so they could arrest this woman at the next stop, but she said there was nothing she could do.  She opened her phone and tried to make a call, but apparently there was no service because she put the phone back into her pocket.

At that point, the woman with the two children began defending herself, claiming the same excuses as before -- she was teaching her child a lesson, this was none of my business, etc.  While she spoke, I looked at the two little girls and apologized for what they were going through.  They looked helpless and afraid.  Bruises spotted the older girl's face and dried tears lined her cheeks.  If this woman would attack her child in public, I could not imagine what she would do in the privacy of their home.

As the train approached Eastern Market, the woman stood up and walked towards the door with her children in tow.

"She's going to get off at this stop," I told the Metro employee.

"Because this is my stop," the woman said, her voice cold and defensive.

When the train stopped and the doors opened, she ran out of the train and into a train that had stopped in the opposite direction.  Both the Metro and employee and I followed her out of the train.

"Please stop that train," I pleaded, pointing at the woman.  "She's going to get away."

The Metro employee repeated that there was nothing she could do.

"I'm not able to stop service," she said.

I ran towards the door and for a split second considered following the woman.  It was no use, though -- I did not have the power to arrest her myself and I don't get phone service on the train.  My best bet, I figured, was to follow the Metro employee to the manager's station and report what I had seen.  Perhaps they could arrest her at another stop.

I watched as the doors shut and the train pulled away.  Then I turned and followed the Metro employee up the escalator and to the manager's station.  She took my name and number, and then picked up the phone and reported what had happened.  To her credit, she described the woman and her two children in much greater detail than I could have.  She spoke with emotion in her voice, explaining that the older girl had bruises all over her face.

I waited at the manager's station for about thirty minutes, talking with the Metro employee and three different plain clothed Metro agents.  All of them were angered by what I told them and insisted that she would be apprehended.  Eventually, the Metro employee opened the manager's door and told me that the woman had been "cleared."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"They stopped the train at Benning Road and found her, but the agent let her go.  He said he didn't see any signs of abuse."

I could not believe it.  "So that's it?"

"Yeah," she said, nodding her head.

The three plain clothed agents shook their heads, clearly irritated, but seemingly powerless to do anything.

"Can't you pull up the video from Potomac Ave.?" I asked.  "There are cameras everywhere."

"We'll file a report, but right now, there's nothing more we can do," the employee told me again.

I left my card with her, walked down the escalator, and boarded the next train into town.  Later that night, when I returned to the Potomac Ave. Metro station, I asked the station manager if they were able to apprehend the woman.

"We've filed a report," the manager said.

"That's it?" I asked.

"That's all we can do," he said.

Once I got home, I called the DC child abuse hotline and reported what I had seen.  Apparently, the police will open an investigation.  It should not be hard to find this woman, though.  There is a camera directly above where she had been hitting her child.  I am willing and able to serve as a witness against her.

You can report child abuse or neglect 24 hours a day, seven days a week to 202-671-SAFE (7233). 

Other items:
MetroAccess driver arrested for sexual assault (WMATA)
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