Metro Transit Police have arrested five individuals for their alleged involvement in the Dec. 8 attack of a 25-year-old gay man who was riding home on Metro’s Blue Line.
According to a Metro press release issued Friday, Dec. 28, Metro Transit Police arrested Tarus Stroddard, 18, of Oxon Hill, Md., and four juvenile residents of D.C., each charged with ”robbery, force and violence.”
Nathaniel Salerno was badly beaten during a late-night ride home from Dupont Circle in a mugging that quickly escalated into an apparent hate crime, as his attackers shouted anti-gay slurs as they beat him. Salerno, who lives in Capitol Hill, said Dec. 27 that he has fully recovered physically, though he is planning to participate in a counseling program for victims of violent crimes.
Lisa Farbstein, a spokesperson for Metro, says the arrests took place over the course of several days, the last of which was made Dec. 27.
A trial will determine if the men are charged with a hate crime. ”We will bring all the information to the state’s attorney and they can add a charge if they want,” says Farbstein. ”We will give them all the facts that we have and they take it to a grand jury.”
Prior to Metro’s Dec. 28 release, Salerno would not comment on the pending investigation.
”Because [the suspects] are juveniles, to get an arrest warrant, they have to have a victim’s statement. They knew who did this, so they just needed my statement to get the four juvenile…charged with the crime committed.”
Originally, Salerno had reported that seven men had attacked him on the Metro, which he says he later confirmed after viewing surveillance video of the suspects leaving the Eastern Market Metro Station.
Metro Transit Police now confirms that there were five men involved in the incident.
”We have no plans to seek any other suspects,” Farbstein says.
Salerno says there must have been an initial miscount on his and Metro Transit Police’s behalf.
”Originally…we thought we saw seven people get out of the train, but there were five and me, so I guess we miscounted.”
As of Dec. 31, a court date had not been set for the five suspects. Salerno says he will be given the choice to either attend the court proceedings or issue a written statement, which would be read on his behalf.
”I haven’t decided yet,” he says.
While Salerno says he is ”happy” with the arrest, he adds that he will continue to use the incident as a way to raise awareness on how the attack could have been prevented.
”I’m hoping that Metro can take into account the fact that there needs to be higher security on the Metro system, particularly at night. I’m going to do everything I can to make that happen.”
Farbstein says Metro provides safety tips for passengers on its Web site, www.wmata.com. For those riding the Metro alone late at night like Salerno, she suggests passengers avoid being alone by riding in the first car, ”nearest to the operator of the train.”
Salerno is also hoping his attackers learn from the incident.
”They’re kids, they’re young men — it’s not just locking them up and throwing away the key,” he says. ”[They require] proper counseling and then rehabilitation to be functional members of society.”