A family in the Juniata Park area of Philadelphia was reportedly attacked after a Memorial Day barbecue. Paul Whitaker, 36, and his children, a 6-year-old son who has autism, 12-year-old daughter who has Asperger's syndrome and asthma and 14-year-old daughter who has Type 1 diabetes, were perparing to leave his mother’s house to return to his home in Trevose, Pennsylvania.
As they got ready to leave, his daughters and four cousins were reportedly approached by a group of neighborhood girls who had bullied the family before. "They were arguing, and I just told them all to get off the street," Whitaker said. "I didn't want them to get into a fight."
The girls left, but a group of 15 people, including adults, came back just a few minutes later, reports Philly.com. "They came down with a mission," Whitaker said. "You could see in their eyes that they were ready to go.”
Several of the adults claimed Whitaker’s daughter had hit a neighborhood girl. The altercation remained peaceful until a man reportedly punched Whitaker’s brother-in-law. Whitaker told NBC Phliladelphia he tried to intervene, but the attacker slammed his head into the concrete until he was unconcious.
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His daughters tried to protect him, but they were hit too, they say. According to police spokeswoman Officer Leeloni Palmiero, the girls were hit by a pregnant 17-year-old and several girls and women. Witnesses said someone grabbed the 14-year-old girl’s hair and hit her head against the railing.
The family, including Whitaker’s mother who was also hurt, were taken the the hospital. Whitaker received five stitches and said his daughters were traumatized. "They couldn't sleep that night," he said. "They were just hysterical."
Whitaker’s ex-wife, Trisha Pellicciotti, said the attack was racially motivated. The Whitaker family is white and lives in a predominately black and Latino neighborhood. Whitaker’s mother has lived in the house for 40 years.
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Whitaker claims his nieces and nephews are “prisoners in their own home.”
"I just don't understand this anger," Whitaker said. "We grew up in that neighborhood; it's completely changed around my mother's house."
Though police have not arrested anyone and neighbors haven’t come forward with information, they said they consider it a matter of aggravated assault — not a hate crime. The police added that they hope to apprehend the main assailant.
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