PHILADELPHIA – Five teenagers fatally beat a man on a subway platform after a friend dared them to hit someone, saying "next person we see we're going to hit," one of the defendants allegedly told police.
"We all didn't want to seem like no punk," Ameer Best, 17, told police in a written statement read at a preliminary hearing Wednesday for Best and four co-defendants.
Best and the other teens, Kinta Stanton, Arthur Alston, Rasheem Bell and Nashir Fisher, all 16, will be tried as adults on charges of third-degree murder and conspiracy for the March 26 beating, Municipal Court Judge James DeLeon ruled.
The friend accused of issuing the dare has not been arrested.
Sean Patrick Conroy, a 36-year-old coffee shop manager, received four or five hard blows, Assistant Medical Examiner Bennett Preston testified. The resulting stress led to a fatal asthma attack.
Preston found the asthma attack was triggered by blunt force trauma, and ruled the death a homicide.
"It was a tough day," said the victim's father, Steve Conroy, fighting tears. "It's tough to hear about him alone on that platform, knowing the way he died."
Conroy was found on his knees, gasping for air on the platform of a downtown subway station by a transit police officer who saw the attack from across the tracks.
Several of the teens told police that a sixth man — identified at the hearing only as "Tim" — challenged the boys as they walked around downtown with little to do after skipping school.
"Tim and Arthur was making statements to all of us, that we were scared to hit someone," police quoted Bell as saying.
"Then Arthur went up to the man and punched him," and the rest of the group followed, Bell said.
The boys told police they abandoned Conroy when a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority police officer patrolling in a cart saw them. The officer was able to chase down and arrest Stanton; the rest were charged the next month.
"None wanted to do it," Best said. "Tim put the idea in our heads. He said 'I didn't come downtown for nothing. Next person we see we're going to hit."'
The statements each boy made to police minimized their individual role in the attack. Some admitted to hitting or kicking Conroy a few times, and others said they never got a punch in.
Alston, who allegedly told police he threw the first punch, said they never set out to kill anyone.
But the judge said they all put themselves at the scene when they gave statements to police.
"The game was to go out and catch a body," DeLeon said. The judge expressed concern that the sixth suspect was still out there.
"What happened to the guy named Tim?" DeLeon asked Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Coelho. "How'd he get away? He is the one who started this whole thing."
The defendants' friends and relatives applauded the question. Police know the identity of "Tim," the alleged sixth participant, but do not yet have the evidence to arrest him, Coelho said after the hearing.
The five teens remain in custody, and have been ordered to house arrest if they make the approximately $35,000 bail.