SAN DIEGO — A teenage Syrian refugee who says he was attacked by a man who screamed racial slurs at him on a San Diego trolley is urging others to speak up if they are a victim of a similar attack.
Police say the confrontation happened as the 17-year-old was taking the train home from school on Oct. 15.
Adrian Vergara, 26, allegedly approached the young man and asked him if he was Mexican. When the teen responded that he was Arabic, Vergara is accused of shouting anti-Arab and Islamophobic slurs as he attacked the boy.
Vergara was arrested Tuesday. As he moves through the legal process, his accuser spoke out in a public statement for the first time Wednesday.
“My brother experienced a hate crime when we first came to the United States. We didn’t report it when it happened because we didn’t think justice was possible. When this attack happened to me on the trolley last week, I decided to file the police report because we can’t stay quiet about this,” the teen wrote.
“I had recently read about the three Muslim women who were attacked only days before this happened to me. We came to this country under the belief that we would have civil rights and liberties and safety. When the attack happened to my brother we realized that this wasn’t true for everyone.”
The teen said he wanted privacy but felt he needed to share his story as an example for others.
“I have not identified myself to media because I am still dealing with the trauma from this and I don’t want the attention. However, I urge others who are victims of such attacks to speak up and not stay silent,” the teen wrote.
“It is important to seek justice when you experience a hate crime to ensure that such incidents don’t continue to happen in our community. To all the people who are attacking our community: Don’t judge us without knowing us.”