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EXCLUSIVE: Suspect In Custody After Terrifying SEPTA Attack Caught On Tape

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By Jenn Bernstein

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A simple request for a cigarette lighter at a SEPTA stop ended in a terrifying beating caught on tape. Luckily, the suspect is off the streets.

Police say a young woman was approached by a man at the Broad-Ridge Spur at the Chinatown stop. The man asked her for a lighter, then lunged at her and began to beat her before dragging her by the ankles and throwing her onto the train tracks below.

“By the time I zipped my jacket back up, that’s when he was on me, on my neck. I was just telling him, ‘I don’t have no money,’ and he was just like, ‘Shut up,’” recalls the victim, who did not want to be identified.

“I started trying to fight him back, and kick just as much as I could. And he grabbed me by the legs … I didn’t feel like I was in any kind of danger when I first went down there and it was just me and him,” the woman says. “He seemed fine, he didn’t seem like he was crazy.”

The woman managed to climb back on the platform as the man walked away.

On Thursday, SEPTA police released a video, which shows a clearer picture of the suspect before the attack. They say they were initially hesitant to release it, citing the suspect’s distinctive jacket as the best clue to hunting him down and saying they feared he’d throw it away if the video went public.

“I think I made the right decision,” SEPTA police chief Thomas Nestel said.

For the victim, who suffered bumps and bruises but no serious injuries, the question of what could have happened is hard not to think about.

“I am so happy that a train didn’t come on either side, because I don’t know what would have happened then,” she says.

Early Thursday evening, the suspect in the attack was picked up at 15th and JFK in Center City. William Clark was found walking on the El platform at 15th Street wearing a jacket similar to the one seen in the video.

Police say Clark has a previous criminal record.

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