‘Heartbreaking and Disturbing:' Video of Teen's NYC Subway Beatdown Stokes Outrage

Footage of the 181st Street attack was posted to social media -- and earned scathing condemnation. WARNING: Some may find its contents disturbing

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What to Know

  • Video showing an attack on a teenager in a Washington Heights subway station last week has gone viral for its apparent cruelty; the NYPD says it is looking for three young people in connection with it
  • It's not clear what led up to the attack at the 181st Street station on Friday; footage posted to social media shows a kid get yanked off a train twice and set upon by a group of three as onlookers cheer
  • The head of NYC Transit joined community leaders in decrying the caught-on-cam behavior, calling it 'heartbreaking and disturbing.' Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers

Authorities are looking for three people in connection with a stomach-churning, racist slur-laden attack on a 15-year-old who was yanked from a Manhattan subway train twice and dragged down the platform by his sweatshirt, then pummeled relentlessly by the trio as dozens of other young people egg them on while recording the entire ordeal.

It's not clear what happened before people started recording the Washington Heights incident, nor was it known if the victim and his attackers had previous interactions.

According to the NYPD, the attack unfolded at the 181st Street and Fort Washington Avenue station around 5:30 p.m. Friday, the NYPD says, right in the midst of the evening rush. Yet it was kids, not commuters, crowding the platform.

One 20-second clip posted in response to the NYPD tweet shows a chaotic scene in the station, with multiple people – at one point, three at once – whaling on the victim, who is largely unseen as he tries to defend himself on the bench.

Dozens of young people are standing on the platform as he endures blow after blow, yelling, ‘Ohh!’ almost as if to encourage the attack, which the vast majority of onlookers appear to be recording on their cellphones.

Video posted to Instagram shows how the teen ended up on the bench. It's not clear if he was already on an A train and tried to get back on or was trying to board initially, but a girl hauls him off, yelling, "Walk!" With his sweatshirt clutched in both fists, she pushes him down the platform from behind. His face mask slips down to his chin.

A sea of apparent teenagers part to let the girl drag the victim through the aisle, as racial slurs spill from both sides. The boy tries to run at one point, and he's quickly caught. She grabs his sweatshirt from the front, by his neck, and starts dragging him down the platform behind her, yelling the whole time. He tries to get back on the train. She climbs on and starts punching him before hauling him off the train again -- as racist slurs fly all around them.

The boy ends up taken to the bench, where the girl and two other people set upon him.

A family member of the victim told NBC New York that the teenage victim is at home recovering after the attack.

The person who posted the Instagram video, which has now been viewed about 40,000 times, did so in an apparent effort to underscore the depth of the problem -- and to give the NYPD potential faces to seek in a bid for justice.

"I can’t even begin to explain how heartbroken, angry and disgusted I am at seeing this video. I don’t know what preceded this clip on that train, but I’m extremely hard-pressed to think of anything that justifies what takes place," the Instagram user wrote. "It’s disappointing that this is still where we are in the world. People don’t even want to be on the trains at 3pm when the schools let out. 🤦🏽‍♂️ When we know there are literally those doing their level best to take away opportunities and civil rights from all of these kids, and everyone that looks like them, and all they can do is turn on one another with slurs and violence while others stand around filming it and encouraging the violence? 😑😢"

The user called the behavior depicted on the video a "sad state of affairs" and asked, "Is this really how we’re getting down uptown in 2023? 🤦🏽‍♂️💔" the user wrote, decrying the behavior seen on the footage as a "sad state of affairs."

Carmen de La Rosa, the NYC Council Member who represents the district where the attack happened, condemned the attack and said "this is not the accepted behavior Uptown."

"We hope to see New Yorkers leading with kindness and grace towards one another. The scene depicted in the circulating video is no way to behave, especially in shared spaces, and we will not condone anti-blackness or hate in our Uptown communities," the Democrat tweeted -- and pledged to follow up with appropriate agencies on next steps.

The MTA appears to be one of them. New York City Transit President Richard Davey condemned the footage in strong terms on Tuesday.

"This video is heartbreaking and disturbing, and our hearts are with the young man seemingly being senselessly victimized," Davey said in a statement. "No one should be subject to this sort of hateful harassment while they are riding with New York City Transit, and the MTA is fully cooperating with the NYPD in its investigation into the incident."

A rally decrying the caught-on-camera cruelty was planned for Tuesday afternoon in front of the subway station.

Police are searching for three people seen in the video.

Anyone with information on the suspects is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.

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