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Cops hunt trolley terror who beat schoolgirl

Furious that her book bag bumped him on a crowded trolley, the man punched a 17-year-old student repeatedly, breaking her nose.

SEVENTEEN-year-old Shay got onto the crowded trolley Wednesday morning like she does every morning, squeezing in among the sleepy morning commuters for the 15-block ride to school.

It took mere seconds for things to spiral out of control.

A man, irked that Shay's book bag bumped him several times in the congested car, cursed her and knocked her hat off. As she rose from retrieving it, the bully bashed her three or four times in the head, breaking her nose, blackening her eye and leaving her terrified friends hurrying to dial 9-1-1.

Police now are hunting the attacker, described as a black man in his 30s, about 5-feet-6, wearing a black winter cap, black jacket and goatee.

SEPTA spokeswoman Heather Redfern said workers will see if any trolley surveillance cameras caught the attack. She referred further questions to East Detectives. The detective handling the case declined to comment, directing questions to public affairs. Public affairs didn't release any details on the incident yesterday.

Philadelphia School District spokesman Fernando Gallard said 60,900 public, charter and parochial students use the city's public transit system daily. Such violent encounters between students and adult riders are rare, he said.

"It clearly is a freak incident," Gallard said. "I never heard of an adult jumping a student like this before in a public-transportation system. This is highly unusual."

Shay's family asked that the Daily News withhold her last name because they fear reprisals from her attacker.

"There must be mental issues involved," Foi Wharton said of her daughter's attacker. "Who would do that? It was a grown man who hit a child. He not only violated her as a woman, he violated her as a child. To be violated by a man at such a young age, she'll have emotional scars forever."

Recovering at her grandmother's house yesterday, Shay said that the trolley was full of uniformed schoolchildren on their way to school.

"There were a bunch of younger kids around - it would have been a lot worse if he'd gone after them," said Shay, who acknowledged that she argued with and punched the man, too - but insisted she did so in self-defense.

The attack happened on the Route 15 trolley, which Shay had boarded at Broad and Girard for a seven-minute ride to Bodine High School for International Affairs near 4th and Girard, where she is a junior. After ambushing her, the man jumped off the trolley at 7th and Girard, as her shocked friends hurried to help her, Shay said.

Police and paramedics met the students at Bodine, and Shay was treated for her injuries at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. She's sure to get great follow-up care: Wharton, who works as an emergency-room nurse at a city hospital, already plans follow-up appointments with specialists to ensure the leftover blurred vision and facial pain Shay has felt since the attack go away.

Ironically, today was to be Shay's last day at Bodine. Her family is moving to Montgomery County, and she'll transfer to a high school there next week.

As a cheerleader, dancer, gymnast, runner and girls' basketball team manager who has managed to stay on the honor roll, Shay would have been busy today and tomorrow bidding her teachers and friends farewell.

Instead, she'll stay home, her mother said.

"I don't expect I'll be able to get her on public transportation anytime soon," Wharton said. "She just feels really unsafe and insecure. She's really nervous and doesn't want to go out anywhere."

Wharton implored citizens to help police identify her daughter's attacker.

"He really just needs to get off the streets," she said. "It was my child today; it could be anyone else's child tomorrow. A child should be able to go to school in a safe environment without getting beaten on the trolley."

Tipsters are urged to call East Detectives at 215-686-3243.