Posted Dec. 11, 2007 - Nine Black middle school students who beat up a White woman on a Baltimore bus last week could be charged with a hate crime, according to reports.
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But the students involved insist that the woman provoked the attack and race had nothing to do with it.
Sarah Kreager, 26, suffered several broken bones in her face as a result of being punched, kicked and dragged off the No. 27 bus last Tuesday by the teens ages 14 and 15, the Baltimore Sun reports.
The trouble started when Kreager boarded the bus with her boyfriend, Troy Ennis, and tried to find an empty seat.
Reportedly, one of the teens followed Kreager around, repeatedly jumping in front of her and telling her that all of the open seats on the bus were reserved.
When she finally found a seat, the youths began punching her and Ennis. Ennis and the bus driver suffered injuries in attack, though not as severe as Kreager's.
This could have all been settled by looking at video tape evidence, since most buses (in the city and elsewhere) are equipped with cameras.
But surveillance tape recovered from the bus is blank and, so far, officials have not had any luck in getting images from the tape, reports Baltimore's WJZ-TV.
Kreager insists that she did not do anything to encourage a fight with the teens (six boys and three girls), and believes race might have played a role.
“I do feel it was motivated by racism, but I think it escalated more out of them trying to be cool…them wanting to be in on the action,” she told The Sun.
The youths were charged as juveniles with aggravated assault and destruction of property.
One of them, Britny Carter, 14, told the newspaper that Kreager started the fight by spitting on one of the girls.
According to Carter, before the confrontation, Kreager became upset because students on the bus were making fun of the fact that she had a black eye. Kreager then spit on the girl, she told The Sun.
“Then everybody on the bus started to fight,” Carter said, adding that no one used racial slurs and that the attack had nothing to do with the fact Kreager is White.
Kreager denies spitting on anyone.
Maryland Transit Administration officials are investigating whether race played a role in the attack, but want more information first.
“It would be premature to limit the scope of the charging process at this point,” Margaret Burns, spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office told the newspaper. “The prosecutors have not received all of the witness statements and evidence, and interviewed all of the victims.”
Meanwhile Kreager, who is homeless, has been placed into witness protection.
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