After being severely beaten by a group of men outside a West Philadelphia dollar store, Ben Robinson thought authorities were coming to help him.
But instead – he was arrested.
“I’m thinking I’m going to the hospital to get stitched up after getting beat up and I find out I’m being arrested,” Robinson said.
“I couldn’t understand it. I’m getting arrested for getting beat up.”
On April 29, Robinson was arrested for allegedly shoplifting soap from the Family Dollar store at 47th Street and Girard Avenue. He was also accused of attempting to assault the store employees with a tire iron.
However, a video posted to YouTube tells a very different story – showing Robinson being pushed, punched and hit with that tool by people who appear to be store employees. That series of events was never told to police. Philadelphia Police and the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office are now investigating the new findings.
Walking with a limp and using a cane, the 55-year-old West Philadelphia resident shared what he experienced that evening with NBC10.com in an exclusive interview Monday.
Robinson says he was driving his friend Craig home when they decided to stop at the store. The men were in the store for about 10 minutes when they decided to leave. Moments later, Robinson says, they were confronted outside by several employees.
"They said 'We can do this the hard way or we can do this the easy way.' And Craig said 'What are you talking about?' And the next thing they know, they went to jumping on him," Robinson said.
Robinson says when he asked why the employees were beating his friend, they turned on him.
“Then they turn around and say, ‘We know you with him too.’ And then they started beating on me and Craig just broke and ran.”
Robinson says he was hit several times and grabbed the tire iron from his car to defend himself.
“They have already jumped on me. I was afraid they was coming back to do something to me. I grabbed the tire iron to wave them off me,” he said. “I didn’t try to hit nobody with it.”
This is where a video recorded by two men driving by the incident picks up.
In the video, Robinson can be seen holding the tire iron, shouting at and running after three men who appear to be Family Dollar employees. Moments later, he was pushed to the ground by one man – dropping the tire iron.
When Robinson gets to his feet, the men surround him. One man punches Robinson in the face and another appears to hit him in the head with the tire iron, causing Robinson to fall to the ground. The men then return to the store and police arrive minutes later.
“I seen the tape myself and I just couldn’t believe the guys would just do that and walk off, laughing back in the store,” he said. Robinson says while the video is hard to watch, without it, he might not be able to prove he was beaten.
“I would have been accused with no defense,” he said.
Philadelphia Police say the employees never told the responding officers they got into a fight with Robinson – they only told them Robinson hurt his head by falling to the ground. He says police were also never told about Craig’s involvement and beating. On the day of the beating, Robinson was charged with several crimes, including aggravated assault and robbery.
“Clearly the officers weren’t informed of what really had taken place,” Philadelphia Police spokesman Lt. John Stanford told NBC10.com earlier this month. “He committed a crime by shoplifting, but that’s not how it should have been handled.”
Robinson adamantly contends he did not steal anything from the store.
“I never got the foot pads I went in there for. I had money in my pocket,” he said. “I never took nothing. I would never try to take anything. All I tried to do is help somebody else out…”
A representative for Family Dollar has previously said the company is investigating the matter internally. A request for comment Monday regarding Robinson’s accusations was not answered.
As for his alleged attackers, Robinson says he’d like to see them disciplined.
“I would like something legally done about their actions. I feel it was totally unjust, totally uncalled for,” he said. “I know they should have been trained better than that; to just come out the store and jump on people. I really have to say I pray for them."
Philadelphia Police are continuing to investigate the new findings. Robinson is expected in court for a hearing early next month.