CTA riders, victims recall robberies, attacks: ‘I’m very paranoid’

A string of robberies and beatings were reported on the CTA Red Line last week. No arrests have been made.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Matthew Medrano was riding a Red Line train when he noticed a teenage girl trying to sell lip gloss to a woman a few seats away.

Within moments, the lip gloss “seller” had punched the 26-year-old woman in the face while trying to snatch her cellphone, Medrano said.

She refused to let go, and the two tumbled to the floor of the train, said Medrano and a police report that detailed the May 6, 7:50 p.m. attack.

Another passenger, a 30-year-old woman, jumped up and began trying to pull the robber off the woman as they wrestled for the phone.

The attack was one of four robberies on the Red Line between May 6 and May 10, police said in a community alert. A spokesperson with the department said there were no updates Tuesday. The victims, as well as the robbers, were mostly women, according to police.

Authorities are trying to identify six suspects in a string of CTA Red Line robberies.

Chicago Police Department

Others, including Medrano, also sprang up from their seats to assist.

“I can see this going on from the corner of my eye, and then right across me, this other lady gets up and starts wildly swinging her purse at these kids,” Medrano, a tourist visiting from the Philippines, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

When the doors opened at the Clark and Division station, the group of at least three young women fled the train without the woman’s phone.

Medrano said the attempted robbery caught passengers’ attention when the robber “sucker-punched her right in the nose.”

“The good thing is, they weren’t able to get anything from the lady, and she managed to keep all of her stuff despite getting punched and grappled to the floor,” Medrano, 28, said.

Medrano, in Chicago visiting extended family, was on the train to meet his brother for dinner, but he decided to stay with the victim and console her.

“She didn’t go home too sad, because we were telling her, ‘You’re really, really tough for not giving your phone,’” Medrano said. “She was pretty happy in the end, but it kind of shook everyone.”

The woman, who identified herself as a “refugee” declined to elaborate on her ordeal when reached by the Sun-Times.

“Criminal activity has absolutely no place on the CTA. And while incidents like this are extremely rare, one incident is one too many,” the CTA said in a statement to the Sun-Times. “The CTA is fully assisting law enforcement in the investigation of these incidents.”

Anxious CTA riders

Shamya Whitty regularly rides the CTA Red Line to work at St. Bernard Hospital.

On her way home about 11:35 p.m. on May 9, Whitty was on a southbound train near 95th Street when a male sat next to her and started touching her phone screen, according to Whitty and a police report obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I flipped out because I don’t know you,” Whitty told the Sun-Times. “Why are you coming up and touching my phone, touching anything that belongs to me?”

“What are you doing?” Whitty asked as the man took her pink iPhone 15 Plus and ran off the train followed by several teenage females.

Whitty hustled to a CTA worker to call her mom, but she was “jumped” by several young women who began beating her. They stole her other phone — a gold iPhone 7, the report said.

Whitty, who suffered bruises to her arms and scratches to her back and an eyelid, was left bleeding during the attack.

“I’m very paranoid. I really don’t want to do public transportation no more,” Whitty said. “I always have to look over my shoulder.”

Whitty, who now carries mace or a Taser with her, said she hopes police make an arrest soon.

“I really hope that somebody gets them, or else it’s just gonna continue,” Whitty said. “They’re still riding the train freely.”

Another victim, a 21-year-old casino employee who declined out of safety concerns to be identified, boarded a southbound train at the Cermak-Chinatown station and was on her way home from work about 2:20 a.m. on May 10 when four females started a conversation with her that seemed friendly at first, according to the woman and a police report.

“Can I have your sweater?” one of them asked. When she said no, they began hitting her face and head.

It happened “out of nowhere,” according to the woman, who began fighting back, but they attacked her again and took her black Sony headphones. She jumped off the train at the 47th Street station, and they stayed aboard.

The victim was taken to St. Bernard Hospital for treatment, according to authorities.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I’ve rode the Red Line for years. They seem like little kids.”

Whitty and the casino worker said they will be more aware of their surroundings and who they speak to when taking the Red Line from now on.

“You just have to be cautious and protect yourself always,” Whitty said.

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