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MBTA seeks attacker who hit disabled man with own cane

Police call crime ‘disgusting’; seek help from public

Surveillance video showed the alleged attacker (right) descending the steps at the Andrew Square T station.

MBTA TRANSIT POLICE

Surveillance video showed the alleged attacker (right) descending the steps at the Andrew Square T station.

A 44-year-old man was standing at the bus station in Andrew Square Saturday night, holding his cane, when he was suddenly attacked from behind. A young man yanked the man’s cane, and before the victim, who is disabled, could react, he was struck in the chest and head with his own white walking stick, police said.

The attack, which took place just after 11 p.m., was captured by surveillance cameras at the MBTA stop, which also recorded the attacker casually walking away from his victim, police said. The attacker, described by authorities as being between 25 and his early 30s, was still holding the cane as he sauntered away from the bus depot toward Dorchester Avenue.

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“It’s a shocking type of crime,” said Transit Police Superintendent in Chief Joseph O’Connor. “He took the cane away from him for no apparent reason.”

On Monday, Transit Police released the video of the attack and posted it on their Twitter account, calling the crime “disgusting.”

Officials are asking the public to help them find the attacker, who was wearing a bulky red jacket with a bright blue sweater underneath, jeans, and a red hat. The incident was also a reminder that disabled and elderly riders are more likely to be victims of criminals who rob or attack them for no apparent reason.

“Whether it’s a senior, a blind person, or a person with a mobility device, you have a tendency to be more vulnerable,” said James White, chairman of the Access Advisory Committee to the MBTA, the official organization representing riders with disabilities. Criminals “feel like you’re less of a danger to them,” White said.

The attacker in Saturday night’s incident took only his victim’s cane, O’Connor said. Video surveillance also shows the assailant walking down the stairs of the T station just before the attack. In that image, he is walking with a young woman and appears to be swaying back and forth, almost as if he were drunk. The woman is no longer with him when he attacks the disabled man about 15 minutes later.

O’Connor said he has no idea what motivated the attack.

“But looking at the video and the way he’s going down the stairs . . . he may have been under the influence of something,” O’Connor said. “Otherwise, I don’t know what would make him do that. There is nothing that we see that he is provoked in any way.”

After the attack, the video shows the victim standing alone, holding his chest. A couple of people appear nearby, but do not approach the victim to help him. It is not clear from the video if those people witnessed the attack.

Police said the victim walked nearly a half-mile from Andrew Square to the Transit Police station on Southampton Street to report the attack.

O’Connor said he hopes that anyone who was there that night will come forward with information that could help authorities catch the attacker.

Between 2011 and 2012, larcenies and robberies fell at Andrew Square from 12 incidents to four, according to Transit Police figures. Assaults rose from two in 2011 to four in 2012. O’Connor said Transit Police are still compiling crime statistics for 2013.

But he said incidents like Saturday’s, in which disabled people are attacked and robbed for something with no obvious monetary value, are rare.

White, however, said he believes many incidents similar to Saturday’s go unreported because victims are embarrassed or scared. More assaults occur on buses than on subway cars, White said.

In the next year, the T will begin extended night hours, with some buses and subways running until 3 a.m. on the weekends as part of a new one-year pilot program.

Asked if Saturday’s attack will influence security plans for that service, O’Connor said officials are still reviewing strategies. “We’ll be supplementing our patrols when the Night Owl is running,” he said.

Maria Cramer can be reached at maria.cramer@globe.com.
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