Man assaulted in Salt Lake restaurant, no one steps in to help

KHON2 obtained cell phone video taken last week inside a Salt Lake fast food restaurant.

An elderly victim was being pinned down in a booth by a man on a rampage.

Preston Sanchez says his first instinct was to hit record on his cell phone.

“For me, it was happening all right then and there. I didn’t know what was going on. It was hard for me to judge what was going on,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez found out later the victim ran into the restaurant to get away from the unprovoked attacker.

But a half-dozen people inside the restaurant did not jump in to stop it — a common case of what psychologists call the “bystander effect.”

“That’s the diffusion of responsibility that happens in large groups of people where everybody assumes it’s not really their responsibility to do anything,” said Dr. Meda Chesney-Lind, a professor at UH Manoa.

Dr. Chesney-Lind says the first thing to do is call police. Then, distract the attacker as a way to intervene.

In the video, one person does yell out, “I’m calling 911.”

“Now that doesn’t seem like a lot, but it begins to disrupt the behavior, and it should have happened a lot earlier,” Dr. Chesney-Lind said.

Sanchez posted his video to Facebook and it’s been shared nearly a thousand times. Most comments criticized him for not stepping in to help.

“There are a lot of Monday morning quarterbacks in this situation. I’ve had good friends who have tried to intervene in domestic violence situations who have had their legs broken,” Dr. Chesney-Lind said.

But Dr. Chesney-Lind says these types of videos can be a big help to police, and getting involved physically could end tragically.

“We do know cases here in the state where people tried to intervene and a couple of instances were killed or seriously injured as a result,” Dr. Chesney-Lind said.

Six years ago, a woman was clubbed to death with a shotgun by her ex-boyfriend. It happened in the middle of a Kailua street as bystanders looked on. Only one man tried to stop the beating and was knocked unconscious.

“The real query for our community is how do the rest of us respond to these situations and do we respond in ways we’re proud of later?” Dr. Chesney-Lind said.

Honolulu police responded to the assault inside the restaurant last week. The victim did not press charges, so officers gave his attacker a trespassing warning.

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