Edmonton LRT beating: Locking victim in with assailant wasn’t the right answer

Police say John Hollar, 29, died in hospital late Sunday night after a savage beating on an LRT train Friday a …A fatal beating on an Edmonton LRT train that continued as the driver proceeded to the next stop is equal parts saddening and infuriating. As with most public attacks that end in death, we are left with questions about what could have been done to stop it.

In this case, answers appear to be plentiful.

CBC News reports that John Hollar was viciously beaten in front of a dozen passengers while riding inside an Edmonton LRT train car on Friday.

The attack spanned over several minutes. It started en route to one station, where other passengers exited the train, and continued until the train arrived at the next station.

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At least one passenger alerted the driver, who announced on the intercom that police had been contacted. Still, the beating continued.

Edmonton transit officials said the decision to continue travelling to the next station was made because police and medical resources were more available at that location. Hollar’s family disagrees that it was the right call, suggesting the driver should have stopped the vehicle and tried to stop the attack.

Uncle Russell Hollar told the National Post:

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.

The incident brings to mind a recent death of the New York City subway system, when a man was struck by the train as other commuters watched on. Questions stirred over the public's responsibility to intervene under dangerous circumstances.

In this case, other passengers and the driver may have been attacked had they tried to stop the beating. The driver’s decision to continue the commute was surely made with the best intentions, but the optics at least are rather unfortunate.

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Instead of stopping the vehicle and perhaps allowing the attacker to flee, the decision to proceed to the next stop locked the victim and suspect into the same train car and may have extended the attack for several more minutes.

Much as it is not the driver’s responsibility to physically confront the attacker, it is also not his responsibility to trap him in a train car for police. The priority should have been on getting medical assistance for the victim. Having the driver continue the trip was likely the wrong decision, but it may have been made for the right reason.