The coronavirus has put people on edge — maybe even Mayor Jim Kenney, who on Sunday tweeted his indignation over a video of what he described as a “despicable” attack on a man who was sucker-punched and ended up on the pavement with an orange traffic cone placed on his head.
“During this difficult time, we must support and comfort each other, not turn to violence and anger,” the mayor tweeted. “The actions of these few do not define who we are as a city.”
After investigating, police say the incident happened five months ago.
On Tuesday, more information was released about the video, which went viral in recent days. The attack took place last Oct. 7, a Philadelphia police spokesperson said. The website NextShark had reported the victim appeared to be of Asian descent, but the person is not Asian but Hispanic, the spokesperson said, adding that East Detectives is investigating.
The spokesperson declined to provide further information on the attack or on the young males seen in the video. An East Division detective said he was not permitted to comment.
A Fox29 reporter tweeted Tuesday that law-enforcement sources said the attack occurred on the 3100 block of Sheridan Street in Fairhill; that at least two of the people involved in the recording or posting of the video or the attack have been identified, but not the puncher; and that criminal charges would be lodged after the coronavirus pandemic crisis is over.
The video showed one of four young males walking up to and then punching the victim in a dark street, then another person in the group putting an orange construction cone on the victim’s head as he lay on the ground. One person stepped on his back, then another sifted through his pants pockets.
The video went viral after NextShark, which writes about Asian American news, reported about it last week, saying it was uploaded to Instagram Thursday by a user named @jaydothemost. The account was deactivated shortly after NextShark reached out to the user, NextShark reported. It said the victim had not reported the attack to police.
It could not be verified when the video was posted on Instagram, but the news of the posting came amid fears caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Kenney on Sunday morning tweeted:
Mike Dunn, a mayoral spokesperson, said by email Tuesday that Kenney did not know on Sunday that the incident had occurred in October. The mayor was uncertain of the victim’s race when he sent out his tweets, Dunn said.
Asked whether the mayor thought his tweets reflected concerns that crime could rise during the coronavirus pandemic, Dunn replied: “The mayor has warned several times during this health crisis that individuals could use it as an excuse to perpetuate racist violence. He views those who would do so to be just as abhorrent as those who might seek to profit financially from the pandemic."
On Tuesday afternoon, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner weighed in, tweeting that the victim in the video was not Asian and that it was shot in October. Anyone who is engaged in a violent hate crime “WILL be prosecuted upon arrest,” he tweeted. He also asked people to stop spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.