Somewhere inside Hahnemann University Hospital, there’s a piece of 19-year-old Dan Lynch’s skull.
Doctors had to remove it to keep the Northeast Philadelphia teenager’s brain from swelling after he and his cousin were attacked by a bunch of guys near Temple University on May 20.
A couple of weeks later, police arrested a Bensalem teen, William Riddle, 19, and charged him with several offenses, including aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person.
Lynch, who was knocked unconscious, doesn’t remember what happened, but eyewitness accounts and video footage paint a disturbing picture.
Lynch and a male cousin who attends Temple had just dropped off a female cousin around 3:30 a.m. when they passed by a house near 16th and Oxford.
From the front, they heard one of the guys say: “You’re on the wrong f—ing block.”
Lynch and his cousin didn’t stop. “I don’t fight,” Lynch said. “I prefer to talk it out.”
A video shows the cousins walking by and then four guys following close behind. A few minutes later, the same guys are shown running past the camera.
In the interim, someone or several someones punched Lynch, maybe kicked him. He landed on the concrete, hard. His cousin threw himself on top of him to protect Lynch from additional blows. He was also hurt. But he got up. Lynch didn’t.
“He saved my life,” Lynch said.
Next thing Lynch knew, he was waking up inside a hospital, three days after a nearly three-hour surgery, alive but critically injured. In addition to multiple breaks to his skull, his jaw was fractured.
Suddenly, instead of walking at graduation from Father Judge High School, the teen was sitting in MossRehab with his head stapled together.
Instead of hanging out with friends and family, he was trapped inside his house fighting off headaches. He may never remember what happened to him, but he won’t forget the pain it has caused.
Instead of having the time of his life before he buckled down and went to trade school, everything was on hold.
That’s the side of violence that we don’t talk enough about, how even when victims miraculously make it through, their lives change. Sometimes for a long time, sometimes forever.
How the act of violence is sometimes just the beginning of a very long road for victims. One that many take alone.
Lynch is lucky in that regard. He has support from family and friends. His cousins chipped in to buy him a pair of fancy sunglasses to keep the sun out of his eyes and the headaches at bay during walks. One cousin put on a helmet to walk with him around the neighborhood so Lynch didn’t feel bad about having to wear one during his recovery.
Doctors told Lynch’s parents, Joe and Theresa, that they are optimistic about their son’s recovery. The staples in his head were removed. His appetite is back. He feels well enough to needle his parents for a dog. Doctors will put his skull back together sometime in August or September.
His folks know how much worse it could have gone. When the hospital called the night of the attack to tell them their son was there, they tried to keep it together when staff would only tell them that doctors were working on the teenager.
But at the hospital, when a security guard who spotted Joe asked if he was Mr. Lynch, he almost lost it.
“I wondered if he saw it on my face or if he knew something we didn’t yet,” he said. “I knew we were in trouble. I knew it was bad.”
As grateful as he is that his son survived the attack, Joe Lynch wishes he could go back in time.
To the hours before his son went out for the night.
Or nine days before, when maybe this all could have been avoided.
Nine days before Riddle allegedly assaulted Lynch, the teen pleaded guilty to harassment and assault in an unrelated case out of Bucks County. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison, time served, then immediately paroled. Judge Wallace Bateman Jr., through an assistant, said both parties had agreed to the sentence, which was within sentencing guidelines.
Riddle is also awaiting a preliminary hearing in another case out of Philly, where he is charged with fleeing police and reckless endangerment.
Why was he out? Lynch’s parents wonder. And will he get off easy again when he goes before another judge next month?
Good questions. They deserve answers.
Riddle is due in court in August. Instead of enjoying their summer, Lynch and his family will be inside a Philadelphia courtroom.
“You don’t realize when you see on the news that there was a car accident or a shooting and the person is listed in critical condition, that their lives are turned upside down,” said Joe Lynch. “People think, ‘Oh, he lived.’ But no, you don’t know what’s going on. You don’t realize it’s just the beginning.”