Passengers on a transit train in Pennsylvania allegedly held up their phones to film the rape of a woman by a man for more than 40 minutes, instead of stepping in to help her, authorities said.
There were fewer than a dozen people present, “but sufficient to intervene,” who recorded the incident but did not help the woman, officials said.
While 35-year-old Fistor Ngoy allegedly continued to grope, harass and assault the woman, at least 24 train stops passed on the Market-Frankford line on the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Septa), the police chief for the transit body said.
Not a single witness of the attack bothered to call 911 and seek intervention as the man, believed to be homeless, continued to assault the woman, police officials said.
Both the man and the woman were recorded boarding the train at the same stop on the night of the attack which took place around 11pm on 13 October. The man was seen first sitting next to the woman and trying to have a conversation with her but gradually turned aggressive and started molesting her.
A Septa employee who saw the attack called 911 and the authorities responded within three minutes.
Officers pulled the man off of the woman by the time the train had reached its last stop, authorities said.
The incident was captured on Septa’s surveillance cameras. It is being investigated if some bystanders recorded the assault.
“I can tell you that people were holding their phone up in the direction of this woman being attacked,” said Thomas J Nestel III, Septa police chief.
He added: “What we want is everyone to be angry and disgusted and to be resolute about making the system safer.”
The accused man has been arrested and charged for rape and assault, and remains in custody on $180,000 (£130,000) bail. He is set to be presented in court on Monday 25 October.
According to the arrest affidavit, the woman appears to have repeatedly pushed Mr Ngoy away. The woman said her pleas to him to go away were ignored, court documents show.
Police statement of the accused shows that the man claimed to know the victim but could not remember her name or who she was. He claimed that the encounter was consensual.
The accused has listed a homeless shelter as his last address.
Disappointed by the deafening silence from witnesses, Septa issued a statement and called it a “horrendous criminal act”, urging people who witness such incidents to report it to authorities by dialling 911, pressing an emergency button on every train or using the emergency safety apps by authorities.
“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’s statement read.
The woman was taken to a hospital and was treated for her injuries after the assault.