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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Family left enraged, bewildered by Edmonton officials’ decision not to stop train during deadly beating

Sarah Boesveld | Jan 1, 2013 9:33 PM ET

HandoutJohn Hollar was beaten savagely on an Edmonton train Sunday. He later died from his injuries.
For a full six minutes, John “Jonny” Hollar was beaten on a northbound LRT train in Edmonton — pounded unconscious before the eyes of more than a dozen fellow travellers. From the front of the train, the LRT operators watched the beating through a closed-circuit surveillance camera and were forced to think on their feet: Would they keep the doors open at Belvedere station, in hopes the attacker would stop the assault and face eventual capture? Or would they seal the car doors and continue on to Clareview Station, where police and ambulance would be more readily available?
They chose the latter. By the time the train stopped around 1:50 p.m. on Friday, Mr. Hollar was close to death.

He was put on life support but he succumbed to severe brain injuries just after 11 p.m. Sunday.
After an autopsy the next day, Edmonton police declared the assault a homicide and announced murder charges against the alleged assailant.

On Tuesday, Mr. Hollar’s uncle expressed the family’s rage and bewilderment in the face of their loss. He said he was “disgusted” by the Edmonton Transit officials’ decision that afternoon. Had they stopped and physically intervened at Belvedere station, he said, maybe his 29-year-old nephew would still be alive.

“I don’t believe that the train should have continued from that station onward,” Russell Hollar said in an interview with the National Post. “I think they should have left the train right at that station, the driver should have got up and made some kind of attempt himself [to stop the fight]…. He would have at least [had] a chance.”
What’s more important? Worrying about catching their guy or worrying about saving somebody’s life?
Mr. Hollar lives in Saskatchewan but had been visiting family in Edmonton for the Christmas holidays when the attack involving his nephew occurred. In the days since the LRT beating, he has been trying to make sense of the LRT operators’ decision-making process. “If you’re unconscious and someone’s continuing to beat on you for another four or five minutes down the road while the driver’s driving, to be continuously watching on video, somebody doing this … I just don’t think it’s right,” he said.

Two other passengers tried to intervene, Edmonton police detective Colin Derksen said, though he declined to elaborate. The Edmonton Journal reported Monday that the beating continued even after the train driver used the public address system to warn that police were en route, and other passengers made emergency calls to alert the driver to the violence.

The attack and the subsequent decision-making over how and if someone should help a person in distress brings to mind the heated debate last month over whether a New York Post photographer should have dropped his camera and attempt to rescue a man who had been pushed in the path of an oncoming subway train (a photo of the man’s last moments ran on the tabloid’s front page the next day). The bystander effect of failing to help someone in trouble in a crowded place because it’s believed someone else will help instead, was discussed over and again. Police will often tell witnesses of a crime to call for help rather than risk injury or worse by getting physically involved themselves.
He would have at least [had] a chance
On Monday, Edmonton Transit System’s security chief Ron Gabruck said a decision was made by ETS control dispatchers to continue driving another three minutes to Clareview Station, which would give better access to police and medical first responders. Upon arrival, the accused fled the LRT car, which was then empty but for the unconscious Mr. Hollar. Police arrested him nearby.

Mr. Gabruck said it is the first death on an Edmonton LRT in the transit system’s 34-year-history.
His uncle believes the prolonged train ride to Clareview just gave the assailant more of a chance to continually beat someone who was already unconscious.

“What’s more important? Worrying about catching their guy or worrying about saving somebody’s life?” he asked, adding that the surveillance video would have aided in the police investigation. “They seem to be more worried about catching the guy than saving somebody’s life. You always save somebody’s life first, you worry about catching that guy later.”

Mr. Gabruck, the only person the transit authority said could speak publicly to this case, was not immediately available to address Mr. Hollar’s concerns Tuesday.

Jeremy Newborn, 29, has been charged with aggravated assault and that charge will be formally upgraded to second-degree murder at Mr. Newborn’s next court appearance on Jan. 14. He’ll remain in custody until then.

Det. Derksen said the two men appeared to know each other, that it was seemingly unprovoked and Mr. Hollar the clear target, but officers are still working on a motive. Mr. Hollar said he did not know where his nephew —born and raised in Edmonton and survived by a brother and two sisters — was going that day. He plans to put his concerns in a letter to the Edmonton Transit System’s top brass.

National Post, with files from the Edmonton Journal and The Canadian Press

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