A flash mob is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual action for a brief time, then quickly disperse. It is organized via social media, text messaging or viral emails. In this case, the group apparently formed only to rampage, riot and beat anyone in their path.
Police today made their first arrest in the vicious beating of a man during a rampage by throngs of attackers who invaded South Street two weekends ago.
Stephen Lyde, 21, was arrested at his residence in the 5400 block of Sansom Street, West Philadelphia, at 11:30 a.m., said Capt. Laurence Nodiff, commanding officer of South Detectives.
Many of the people who descended on South and Broad Streets on the evening of May 30 appear to have been directed through text messages and online social networking sites – creating a type of spontaneous gathering known as a “flash mob.”
However, Nodiff said, Lyde was not tracked down through the Internet. Detectives expect to make more arrests soon.
The victim, who police say is 54, was riding his bicycle on his way home from his job at the Wistar Institute in University City around 11:30 p.m. when he was confronted by eight males at Broad and South, Nodiff said.
“They brutally and viciously beat him to the ground, to unconsciousness,” Nodiff said.
The victim was transported to Hahnemann University Hospital in critical condition with brain swelling, a skull fracture, facial and rib fractures, an internal injuries, Nodiff said.
He remains in the hospital.
The Wistar Institute declined to comment, citing employee confidentiality.
That night, menacing mobs were involved in four major incidents. A cab driver was assaulted and robbed around 12th and South Streets and his taxi was taken and crashed a couple of blocks away. A paralegal working for the district attorney and a companion were pulled from a vehicle on Broad Street and assaulted and robbed. And a man standing outside a McDonald’s on Broad was hit in the head with a metal object. The wound required six stitches.
The assault at Broad and South was the most brutal, Nodiff said.
Lyde is charged with aggravated assault, robbery, riot and related offenses.
Since the rampage last month, Nodiff said, patrols have been stepped up in the South Street area and police will have “zero tolerance” for any criminal activity, no matter how minor.