UNIVERSITY of Pennsylvania senior Brian Goldman was in a cab on his way to a date Saturday night when he and his cabbie became victims of a random, violent attack by a group of teens at a Center City intersection - and he says dozens of people stood by and did nothing.
In fear for his life, Goldman fled the attack and remained unidentified until yesterday, when he penned a column about his experience in Penn's school newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian.
In an interview with the Daily News last night, Goldman, 21, of Queens, N.Y., said that when he wrote the column, he was unaware that the attack had been reported to police, let alone that it had become a news story.
According to police - who said their version had come from the 53-year-old Liberty Cab driver - about 8:30 p.m., the cab was at a light at 15th and Chestnut streets when three black teens - two of whom were 17 and one 15 - pulled a white passenger out and beat him while shouting racial slurs.
When the cabdriver tried to stop the attack, the teens turned on him, police said. Goldman fled, and the cabbie grabbed a tire iron from his car and chased the kids away, police said. The cabbie flagged down a cop, and the three teens were arrested and charged with aggravated assault.
Goldman estimated that eight to 10 teens had been in the group. He said he wasn't pulled from the cab, but instead was punched through the open window.
"I felt threatened sitting in the cab; I thought they could jump in from both sides, so the first thing I did was jump out," he said.
The driver did the same, Goldman said, and that's when he was punched in the head a second time. After that second punch, he said, the cabbie grabbed the tire iron from his trunk and scared some of the teens away, but the cabbie then got punched from behind by another kid.
Goldman said that dozens of bystanders watched the attack and that none of them did a thing.
"At that point, I couldn't fight back, nor did I want to," he said. "I was convinced these kids had a knife on them, or some weapon, so I jogged up the block."
Goldman said that when he got halfway up the street, he turned to make sure the cabbie was all right and saw him driving away.
"He was a very brave man," Goldman said.
The cabdriver was not available for comment yesterday, but his son said he was doing well and was back at work.
Police said the cabdriver told authorities that the teens had used racially derogatory language against the passenger.
"That's not something I recall," Goldman said, "but I was punched pretty immediately at the outset of the incident."
He said the teens did ask him what kind of phone he had.
He said he didn't call police because he wasn't bleeding and he knew that the cabbie had gotten away.
"I felt very lucky immediately afterward," he said. "I know it's been a lot worse for other people."
Unaware that the story had become news, Goldman said, he wrote his column to draw attention to "flash mobs" and the "bystander effect." He didn't mention race in his column.
"This is my very personal opinion, but I think in general race is a very easy culprit for a lot of issues and a lot of violence," he said. "Sometimes, it is the culprit behind it; however in this case I feel that it was pure, unmitigated violence.
"In my column, I didn't want race to overshadow the greater issues of mobs and violence."
Goldman met with police yesterday. Whether the teens will face hate-crime charges remains to be seen, said Philadelphia District Attorney spokeswoman Tasha Jamerson.
"The investigation is still ongoing," she said.
Jamerson said that to charge a hate crime, prosecutors must show that a crime was motivated by hatred toward a person's race, color, religion or national origin.
As for Goldman, he didn't let the attack stop him from that date he was looking forward to Saturday night.