Police have identified the suspects and revealed a motive in a caught on camera attack of a 14-year-old boy at the King of Prussia Mall Friday.
The victim, who did not want to be identified, told NBC10 he was celebrating his birthday Friday night with his girlfriend and his friend. They were walking through the mall around 8 p.m. when a group of about seven teens began following them and making threats.
“It was pretty scary,” the teen said. “I wasn’t expecting anything to happen. They were threatening that they were going to punch me and stuff.”
The group then began to attack the teen, punching him as he fell to the ground. Store employees broke up the fight and the group fled the mall before security arrived. The incident was captured on cellphone video.
“He can’t fight anyway,” the person recording the video says moments before the attack. “He can’t. It’s like a known f*****g fact.”
The victim told NBC10 he didn’t know anyone in the group and believed it was a random attack. On Wednesday Upper Merion Township Police Chief Thomas Nolan told NBC10 however that based on their investigation, they believe the teen was targeted because he had broken up a previous fight the suspects were involved in.
"Preliminarily, we have learned that this was not a random attack, but rather in retaliation of the victim’s efforts to break up a previous fight involving these same suspects that occurred a few weeks prior," Nolan said.
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Chief Nolan told NBC10 all of the suspects in the attack have been identified. Police believe they are students at Radnor Middle School. Police are conducting more interviews and reviewing all video to determine the appropriate charges against them. They are not releasing the names of the suspects because they are juveniles. Nolan also said the teens will be banned from the King of Prussia Mall.
Esther Purnell, the principal of Radnor Middle School, released a statement Wednesday on the attack.
"We were disheartened to learn from the police that students from our school may have been involved," Purnell wrote. "We are cooperating fully with the police in their investigation."
"We take great pride in our students and our school. While the actions of our alleged students as they pertain to this incident occurred outside the school day and do not represent all of us as a Radnor community, we would be remiss in not expressing our sincere disappointment and dismay. We do not tolerate this type of behavior."
Chief Nolan also addressed concerns that the King of Prussia Mall had become unsafe in recent years, telling NBC10 those claims are not supported by crime statistics.
"During the years, 2013 through 2016 we have averaged 4.7 assaults per year," Nolan wrote. "Only one of those assaults rose to the grading of an aggravated assault. With nearly 20 million people visiting the mall each year, averaging less than 5 assaults per year is an extremely low percentage. During that same time period we averaged only 3 robberies at the mall per year."
The Upper Merion Township Police Department, Mall Management and Mall Security met Wednesday to discuss plans to increase security at the KOP Mall in the near future, according to Nolan. Nolan also encouraged shoppers to report any suspicious activities and listed the following contacts:
King of Prussia Mall Security: 610-265-7695
Upper Merion Township Police Department: 610-265-3232