Eric Lewis has been taking Metro’s Expo train from Downtown Los Angeles to his job in Santa Monica every day undisturbed for the past three years until April 19 at 11:15 a.m. when he was attacked and violently beaten by eight juvenile males.
Lewis said it all began when some of the young men began delaying the train by preventing the doors from closing near the last stop. The suspects were taking pictures causing commuters on the packed train, including himself, to plead with the boys to “stop holding the doors open, get back on the train, we’re going to be late, we got to get to work.”
When the boys joined their other friends, Lewis said they zeroed in on him as he was seated near their group and began to taunt, harass and throw items at him. Flustered yet calm about the situation, Lewis said, no matter what occurred, he kept his head down looking at his phone as they neared the last stop.
“I could tell they were trying to provoke something out of me. When we get to the last stop, I knew I’m not going to be the first one off this train, so I wait, I’m going to be the last because wherever they’re going I’m going opposite,” Lewis said. “I’m no idiot, I’m not going to pick a fight with anyone, we hardly even interacted in any way, I don’t understand what would have caused them focus in on me.”
When the train stopped, the boys turned left on the platform – the direct way to leave the train – so Lewis decided to take the emergency exit in the opposite direction. As he exited the train, he felt a “whack” on the back and turned around to see one of the boys swinging his skateboard.
“The first thing out of my mouth was ‘did you just hit me with your skateboard?’” Lewis said.
At that point, the rest of the group started yelling at Lewis who grabbed his phone saying that he was going to call the cops. Lewis said that as he started to dial, the teens jumped on him screaming insults and racial slurs as they tried to take his phone from him.
The next thing Lewis remembers is being in the middle of the street, on the ground braced for what he says he “knew what was coming.”
“I just remember getting beat,” Lewis recalled, “and being hit well over 50 times.”
Lewis said that as they continued to beat him he asked them to stop repeatedly but the teens did not relent and continued their assault with their fists, skateboards, and feet while one reached into his vest and eventually grabbed his phone.
While being beaten by the teens, Lewis recalls seeing around 20 people on both sides of the street watching the occurrence without interfering to help.
Lewis said that seemingly out of nowhere the teens stopped hitting him so he got up and frantically looked around spotting a Marriott Courtyard Hotel security guard standing there so Lewis walked up to him and stood besides in hopes of getting protection.
“The whole thing felt like forever,” Lewis said, “I think the amount of people watching may have made them stop as well as they lost their zest for it.”
Lewis said that he vaguely remembers someone saying that they had called the police as all the teens were still nearby with three still antagonizing him. Checking the street and his pockets for his phone, Lewis began to look for his things including his backpack that had his work clothes when the “leader” of the group confronted Lewis again.
“I looked at him and said ‘I just want my phone back, give me my phone back,’” Lewis said.
That’s when Lewis said the teen raised his hands above his head with his skateboard and slammed down over his head one final time as hard as he could, causing Lewis to stumble backward.
“You just cracked my skull,” Lewis said as blood began to rush down his face.
The teen then turned around still antagonizing Lewis and ran away with the rest of the group.
As soon as the boys left Lewis sat down on the sidewalk, dizzy and leaned forward so that the blood from the gash in the middle of his forehead near his hairline would not flow into his face but into the sidewalk where a puddle of blood began to form.
“There was so much blood, that when the police arrived, I saw someone come scrubbing and trying to bleach it away,” Lewis.
Two Santa Monica Police Department officers arrived at the scene and Lewis said he was shown an image from which he was able to pick out two of the teens.
When the ambulance arrived, the paramedic asked Lewis if he wanted to go to the hospital.
Confused by the question, Lewis did not answer and said the police had encouraged him to go to the hospital so he was taken to St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica where he arrived at the emergency room around 12:30 p.m.
Lewis suffered a deep laceration to his scalp requiring eight staples, as well as a cracked rib, multiple abrasions on his back, arms and shoulders, and a concussion that he was told was the cause of his light sensitivity, dizziness, headaches, word comprehension and nausea.
While in the hospital, an officer showed Lewis that they had found his phone smashed in several pieces.
“I remember being shocked when the police officer showed me my phone and said ‘we found your phone, they said you dropped it.’ I stared at him confused because the way he said it was like it was a matter of fact that the guys that assaulted me had told them nothing happened, the phone was just randomly dropped,” he said. “It really upset me.”
Released from the hospital later that day, Lewis said he vaguely remembers the exact details of how he got home but does remember relying on the train as he had nobody’s phone number memorized to help him and no phone to call anyone.
According to the Santa Monica Police Department, the case falls under the jurisdiction of the LA County Sheriff’s Department as the assault started in their jurisdiction on METRO property. However, SMPD officers were the first to arrive and it was SMPD who arrested the suspects after locating them with the help of their tactical drone.
All suspects were identified as juveniles from Los Angeles but only two have been charged with assault at this time. Per County rules regarding juveniles accused of committing crimes, all suspects were issued citations and released to their parents.
“To not charge every single person that was there and act like solely two people did this is maddening. It was all of the teens that chased me, surrounding me preventing me from leaving, intimidating me and they all assaulted me. Each one of them played a part.”
Written by Magnolia Lafleur and published in partnership with the Westside Current.