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SEPTA hammer attack suspect has lengthy criminal record

A man suspected of attacking a SEPTA passenger last week with a hammer aboard the Broad Street subway line has been charged with attempted murder, aggravated and simple assault and other charges.

"I thought it was possible ... he was trying to kill me," DeWayne Taylor says of being beaten by a stranger with a hammer on the subway.
"I thought it was possible ... he was trying to kill me," DeWayne Taylor says of being beaten by a stranger with a hammer on the subway.Read more

A man suspected of attacking a SEPTA passenger last week with a hammer aboard the Broad Street subway line has been charged with attempted murder, aggravated and simple assault and other charges.

Police this morning identified the suspect as Thomas Scantling, 26, of the 6500 block of Gratz Street in Philadelphia.

Scantling was taken into custody last night, a day after a graphic video of the beating was released by police.

The man's family called investigators after they recognized him, and his five-year-old son, in images broadcast on television, police said.

Scantling was taken into custody at a mental institution late Tuesday, said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said on NBC's "Today" this morning.

Ramsey this morning criticized other riders for doing nothing to stop the attack.

"They better pray they're never a victim, because if someone was attacking them that way they would certainly hope someone would step forward and help, and it starts with stepping forward and doing something yourself," Ramsey said.

Ramsey said the suspect "has a long criminal history including rape, robbery, assault, narcotics violations."

Detectives last night remained mystified at what set off the vicious attack.

The video, shot early Thursday morning, shows DeWayne Taylor, 20, dozing on a seat on a northbound train on the Broad Street line. A man and his son are seen standing in front of the subway car doors. The man says something into the boy's ear, kisses him on the cheek, and directs the child to an empty seat.

Then he reaches into a backpack, pulls out a hammer, and immediately begins a savage assault on Taylor.

Taylor tries to fend off his attacker. The subway doors open and the man drags Taylor onto the Fairmount subway platform.

By all accounts, the beating was unprovoked.

Taylor said he'd had no interaction with the assailant before the attack. He was resting, listening to hip-hop on his iPod, when the man came after him, he said last night.

"Honestly, I didn't even notice him," said Taylor, a 20-year-old laboratory assistant at the University of Pennsylvania and a regular SEPTA rider. "I was in my own world."

Scantling reportedly tried to hurt himself with the hammer following the attack on the subway. Family members said they were not initially aware of the attack, but had the suspect committed to the mental institution where he was taken into custody.

The assault, early Thursday morning on a northbound train that had just left City Hall, was the latest violent and seemingly pointless attack to occur inside the transit agency's vast warren of trains and subways.

The graphic video has been seen widely on television and the Internet, raising concerns from some SEPTA commuters about their safety.

Others questioned why none of the 10 or so passengers on the train intervened as Taylor, who had been on his way home, was being pummeled.

Richard Maloney, a SEPTA spokesman, said passengers did exactly what they should have: They got out of harm's way, and one contacted SEPTA police while another pulled the emergency switch.

Lt. Frank Vanore of the Public Affairs Unit, however, said it was difficult to say whether others should have done more.

Vanore said that he would not fault the other riders for not coming to Taylor's immediate aid, but that he had a problem with their not coming forward to tell police what they saw.

"The best thing to do is to be a good witness and call authorities right away," Vanore said. Police still want the other riders to call Central Detectives at 215-686-3093 and let them know what they saw, he added.

The assault was recorded by a digital camera inside the train, one of 36 installed in SEPTA's 135 trains since the agency launched a new electronic security system. The entire fleet should be equipped with digital cameras in the next couple of years, Maloney said.

"This is a very strong law enforcement tool," Maloney said. "The message should go out to evildoers that if you do it on the SEPTA system, you're going to be seen and you're going to be very quickly arrested."

The images recorded give this account of what happened:

Early Thursday, about 12:15 a.m., both Taylor and the assailant with his son boarded the next-to-last car leaving north from City Hall.

Just before stopping at the Fairmount station, the man directed his son to an empty seat and began the attack.

The assault spilled onto the platform after stopping at the station.

Authorities said that by then the train operator had been made aware that something was going on, and he notified the control center.

The recording further shows the attacker's son getting off the train and watching the attack. The doors to the car closed. Then another passenger hit an emergency switch, the doors reopened, and the boy returned to the train to get the backpack and left with his father.

Meanwhile, Taylor got back on the train, got off at the Allegheny exit, and walked to Temple University Hospital, where he received stitches and was treated for non-life-threatening head and neck injuries, police said.

Hours later, his mother called police from their home.

Taylor said last night that he had not returned to work since the attack, but that he expected to go back to his routine.

Police said that Taylor had lost his cell phone in the struggle and that it had not been found. Police said they did not know whether it was dropped in the subway train or on the platform as the attack unfolded.

Commuters using the Broad Street Line yesterday said they were shocked by the video and questioned whether SEPTA has enough police underground.

Trisha Corko, at the Spring Garden station Tuesday morning, said she didn't feel safe riding the Broad Street Line.

She said she had seen more officers riding the trains in recent months, "but it's still not enough."

SEPTA boosted police patrols earlier this year after the afternoon attack of Sean Patrick Conroy, a Starbucks manager, who collapsed and died March 26 following a beating by truant high schoolers on the subway concourse in Center City.

The agency added 30 officers to the 60 already on duty between 2 and 5 p.m. Maloney said yesterday that the increased patrols remained in place.

"You can never have enough security," said George Farrell, who takes the subway night and day.

David Kontts said he had been riding SEPTA for more than 30 years and tried to be cautious. He said he had never had a bad experience and was not sure whether he would have intervened Thursday.

"When a man is really angry and is hitting someone like that, it's probably better to call someone for help," Kontts said.