San Diego

Man Arrested in Suspected Hate Crime Attack on Syrian Teen on Trolley Car: SDPD

Adrian Vergara, 26, was arrested for an unrelated misdemeanor narcotics charge and police recognized him as the suspect in the attack

A man was arrested Tuesday in connection to the suspected hate crime attack of a teenage Syrian refugee aboard the trolley, the San Diego Police Department confirmed. 

Port of San Diego Harbor police arrested Adrian Vergara, 26, for an unrelated misdemeanor narcotics charge and investigators recognized him as a suspect in the Oct. 15 attack on the teenager, San Diego police said.

The San Diego Police Department booked Vergara into jail and said the act on the trolley is actively being investigated as a hate crime.

Vergara is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.

The teenager said he was riding the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System trolley on his way home from school at about 3 p.m. on Oct. 15. He 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, no identified as Vergara, reportedly attacked the teen and exited the trolley at the 62nd Street station in Encanto.

Surveillance video from cameras onboard the trolley confirmed the victim's allegations, SDPD said. The video will not be released because it could compromise the integrity of the investigation, the agency said earlier. 

Yusufi provided NBC 7 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.

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," he said.

In early October, three women wearing hijabs were attacked by a man in Little Italy, according to San Diego 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 in that incident, plus three counts of violating civil rights by force or threat, and a charge for possession of a weapon silencer. Allen pleaded not guilty on Monday.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

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