Passengers who recorded an alleged incident of sexual assault on a train near Philadelphia but did not intervene or call authorities could face charges, though local prosecutors cast doubt on the idea Tuesday.
"It would be up to the Delaware County district attorney’s office to make such a decision after the police finish their investigation and submit their findings," Upper Darby Township Police Department Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt said in a press conference, The New York Times reported.
Bernhardt said that the bystander footage he reviewed showed that the passengers had an opportunity to intervene for 40 minutes while the victim was allegedly assaulted by the suspect, 35-year-old Fiston Ngoy.
The surveillance video also showed the victim allegedly pushing Ngoy away multiple times until he is seen forcefully ripping her pants down at about 9:52 p.m., police said, according to the Times.
However, he did not confirm the exact number of passengers who witnessed the attack.
Bernhardt added that there were not “dozens of people” in the car at the time but there were enough present that “collectively, they could have gotten together and done something.”
The Delaware County District Attorney's Office, however, told The Hill that "this is an ongoing investigation but at the present time there is no expectation that charges will be brought against passengers."
No emergency calls were made in Philadelphia, and the police are still waiting for Delaware County 911 to determine if it received any calls, according to The Associated Press.
“I can tell you that people were holding their phone up in the direction of this woman being attacked,” Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III said at the news conference on Monday, according to The Independent.
“What we want is everyone to be angry and disgusted and to be resolute about making the system safer,” he added.
The incident, which took place around 10 p.m. on Wednesday of last week, occurred on a SEPTA train on the Market-Frankford Line, a spokesperson for SEPTA told the Times on Sunday.
“There were other people on the train who witnessed this horrific act, and it may have been stopped sooner if a rider called 911,” SEPTA added.
“I’m appalled by those who did nothing to help this woman,” Bernhardt told the Times. “Anybody that was on that train has to look in the mirror and ask why they didn’t intervene or why they didn’t do something.”
The alleged assault was stopped after a SEPTA employee witnessed the incident and called 911.
“The assault was observed by a SEPTA employee, who called 911, enabling SEPTA officers to respond immediately and apprehend the suspect in the act,” the transit authority said in a statement.
Bernhardt added that Pennsylvania did not have a good Samaritan law, stating that it would be difficult to bring charges against those who witnessed the interaction but did not intervene.
—Updated at 3:15 p.m.