A hate crime investigation has been launched into the attack of a Syrian refugee teenager on a Metropolitan Transit System trolley on Tuesday, the San Diego Police Department confirmed.
The teenager said he was riding the trolley on his way home from school at about 3 p.m. and was speaking Arabic on the phone when the attack happened, according to the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA), a non-profit that supports refugees.
"The individual next to him asked him what his ethnicity was. When he said he was speaking Arabic and that he was Arab. The attacker started saying racial slurs," said Homayra Yusufi, with PANA.
The passenger reportedly then attacked the teen and exited the trolley at the 62nd Street station in Encanto.
Surveillance video from cameras onboard the trolley confirms the victim's allegations, SDPD said. The video will not be released because it could compromise the integrity of their investigation, the agency said.
Yusufi provided NBC7 photos of the victim’s face with injuries from where he had been struck during the attack.
"No one intervened on his behalf. And I know that that hurt,” said Yusufi.
The teen shared his story anonymously because he doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else but is still fearful for himself and his family.
The suspect took off and has not been located, SDPD said. The department said the act is actively being investigated by a detective as a hate crime.
NBC 7 reached out to MTS for more information and with questions about safety but they declined to comment.
Yusufi said this is a larger problem of intolerance.
"The rampant Islamophobia that's been happening on a national scale definitely has ramifications here in San Diego," said Yusufi.
In early October, three women wearing hijabs were attacked by a man in Little Italy, according to police.
Police said the man shoved one of the women, slapped another woman and then tried to take off one of the women’s hijab from her head. During this confrontation, the man also allegedly made a racial remark.
Kyle Allen, 50, was arrested on three counts of misdemeanor battery, three counts of violating civil rights by force or threat, and a charge for possession of a weapon silencer.