IT WAS the lie of a child, a way of avoiding getting in trouble for coming home late.
But it had terrible consequences - it stirred an angry mob, and it ultimately left a 51-year-old man fighting for his life with horrific head injuries.
It led to the arrest of two women: the boy's mother, Aleathea Gillard and her neighbor, Sharina Joachim, who both have been charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and related offenses, police said.
It started Tuesday afternoon, when Gillard confronted her 10-year-old son, police sources said. She wanted to know where he had been.
He said that, en route to his house, on Wellens Avenue near 5th Street in Olney, he had stopped at the nearby Sunoco gas station at 5th Street near Tabor Road. There, the boy said, he tried to earn some extra cash by offering to pump customers' gas, according to Lt. Dan Brooks, of Northwest Detectives.
While he was there, he ran into a neighborhood fixture, a homeless man who often does odd jobs around the area. He, too, wanted to pump gas for money, Brooks said. An argument broke out, and the boy would later claim the man assaulted him.
Only problem is that, according to Brooks, there is no evidence that the man did anything more than get into a verbal argument with him.
But Gillard, 34, didn't know that at the time, and she was furious. She called Joachim, 24, who gathered a group of her family and friends. They armed themselves with a hammer, a can of Mace and a wooden shard taken from a broken rocking chair, Brooks said.
They piled into a friend's Honda Odyssey and returned to the gas station just before 7 p.m. Utter chaos unfolded, as seen in a video released Friday by police.
Adults and children, side-by-side converging on a man who had no chance of defending himself.
Joachim was carrying the Mace and sprayed it, but she missed, instead hitting a young man in the group, one of Gillard's sons, in the face, Brooks said.
Another woman, one who police are seeking help in identifying, swung a hammer, hitting the victim repeatedly. Other, younger attackers, stomped and kicked the man's head as he lay prone on the ground.
Finally, Gillard walked up to the man and beat him with the piece of the rocking chair, hitting him so hard in his head and face that the wood splintered in her hands, Brooks said.
Then, as quickly as they arrived, the group got back in the van and prepared to leave.
But before they did, Gillard hesitated. She pulled her son, the one at the center of the incident, toward the man, lying broken and bleeding on the pavement.
She wanted to him to see that they had stood up for him, Brooks said.
Police later took that man to Einstein Medical Center, where he remained Friday night in "extremely critical condition," Brooks said.
He was in a medically induced coma. Sources said parts of his skull had to be removed to reduce swelling. The posse broke his collarbone and nasal cavity.
In the wake of the beating, Gillard and Joachim also went to Einstein - they sought medical attention for Gillard's son, sprayed by the Mace, sources said.
But the blood on their hands and shoes gave them away, and police arrested them as they sat in the hospital's parking lot.
They remained in custody Friday night, denied bail, according to court records.
Meanwhile, police are imploring the public to watch the horrific footage of the attack on their YouTube channel (youtu.be/h-i2SonWUFs) in the hopes of identifying the other attackers.
Tipsters can call 215-686-8477.
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