A man has died in hospital after being viciously beaten in front of about a dozen witnesses on an Edmonton LRT train last Friday.
“It looked like just some little scrap between two people … but then it kind of escalated. One guy was, like, telling the other one ‘stop, stop, stop, stop,’” said Scott McLeod, who was in the train car when the attack began.
Police were alerted to an attack going on inside the LRT car as it approached Clareview Station just before 2 p.m Friday.
Homicide Det. Colin Derkson says John Hollar, 29, was assaulted by another man shortly after the northbound train left Coliseum station.
The train stopped at Belvedere station, letting other passengers off, but the two men remained.
“The doors closed. The suspect was still assaulting the victim,” said Ron Gabruck, director of operational support for Edmonton Transit.
He says the decision was made to continue to the next station, about 3 minutes away, where it would be easier for police and emergency workers to reach the train.
By the time the police arrived, Hollar was unconscious and the suspect had run from the scene.
“The driver is the person actually who came out and flagged down the first police officer, and then they ran together and he was able to point him out,” Derkson said.
“If it wasn’t for the great teamwork … we probably would not have found [the suspect], certainly not that quickly. And it’s possible we would not have been able to identify him.”
Hollar was taken to hospital in critical condition with head injuries, where he died two days later.
Jeremy Newborn, 29, is charged with aggravated assault, but police say those charges will now be upgraded to second-degree murder.
Police believe the two men may have known one another.
Witness Scott McLeod says the train driver didn't offer any explanation to passengers as to what was being done to stop the assault.
He says he hit the yellow emergency bar on the side of the train, and was asked what the emergency was. But he didn't hear anything back after describing the attack.
“I didn’t hear any response. I was very scared.”
McLeod and the rest of the passengers in the car got off when the train stopped at Belvedere station, but says he was surprised when the train continued on to Clareview.
“I was kind of surprised that the train didn’t just stop at Belvedere. I was expecting some kind of voice to come over the system, to tell people not to get on the train.”
However, Gabruck says the security systems on the train worked as they were meant to. Passengers alerted the driver of the attack through a phone located in the car.
The driver was able to monitor the assault through a video camera.
“In fact, in this case, the driver did go over the PA system and did advise that police were called. The assault continued.”
Investigators are now reviewing video surveillance.
Gabruck says it is the first homicide on Edmonton’s LRT system.
There have, however, been violent incidents on the system’s platforms. In May 2010, a woman was shot and killed in Stadium station after an argument. In November, three men were charged with attempted murder after pushing another man onto the tracks at Churchill station.
Gabruck says despite those incidents, Edmonton’s transit system isn’t any more dangerous than any other city's.
“I don’t think the Edmonton transit system is any different from any subway or transit system city across the country,” he said.
“Edmonton is a big city. Crime is going to happen.”