A SCREEN SHOT of two men beating Jamila Regan outside the Exxon gas station on Brighton Road, Sept. 20.
by Rob Taylor Jr., Courier Staff Writer
Good luck trying to get gas at the Exxon Gas Station on the corner of Brighton Road and Marshall Avenue on the North Side anytime soon.
For that matter, good luck ever seeing that gas station open again as long as it’s owned by the men who were seen on video beating and assaulting two Black women inside and outside the store.
A cellphone video from Sept. 20 that has been viewed all over the country shows what Pittsburgh police called a “disturbing” situation—multiple male gas station owners and employees beating sisters Jamila and Aisha Regan, grabbing them by their hair and throwing them onto the ground, striking them while they were on the ground, and at one point, Jamila Regan being shoved into a gas pump stand. Punches were also thrown by the men, who outnumbered the Black women, 4 to 2.
Once word got out about what transpired at 2501 Brighton Rd. around 6:45 p.m. on Sept. 20, many members of Pittsburgh’s African American community raced to the gas station and promptly forced the gas station to shut its doors. There were and still continue to be protests. There were demands that the men involved should face, at the least, aggravated assault charges.
But late Monday afternoon, Sept. 23, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office announced that three of the men involved in the attack won’t face aggravated assault charges—rather, the lesser charges of simple assault. The simple assault charges classify as a misdemeanor in the second degree.
Scott Hill, 50, a White male from the North Side, and Sukhjinder Sadhra, 35, an Asian from the North Hills, both face two counts of simple assault; Balkar Singh, 40, race unknown, from Harmar, faces one count of simple assault.
The two Black women were not charged.
Penalties for a conviction of simple assault (second degree misdemeanor) in Pennsylvania include up to 2 years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.
Penalties for a conviction of aggravated assault, also known as felony assault, include up to 10 years in jail and up to a $25,000 fine if the victim did not suffer serious bodily injury.
On Tuesday, Sept. 24, Tim Stevens, Chairman and CEO of The Black Political Empowerment Project, wrote in a letter to Mayor Bill Peduto, Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich and Police Chief Scott Schubert that the decision to charge the men with simple assault “has enraged many citizens of Pittsburgh. The Black Political Empowerment Project and the Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence join with others in viewing the decision of District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. as a slap in the face to Black women and can only wonder what he would have charged if the women assaulted had been members of his family.”
Stevens continued: “One of these women was thrown against a gas pump. If that act was not a form of reckless endangerment and aggravated assault, what would be?”
Stevens has urged the city leaders to “immediately intervene to have the charges elevated to aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. The community is depending on you to do what is right.”
As of New Pittsburgh Courier press time, Sept. 24, there has been no response from Hissrich or Chief Schubert. But Mayor Peduto did tweet that the video “made me sick.”
Prior to Stevens’ comments, Mike Manko, spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, said in a statement that “under no circumstances is it acceptable for anyone, regardless of gender or race, to be assaulted in the way that is depicted in the video and such behavior will not be tolerated in Allegheny County.”
Jamila Regan, 25, addressed supporters outside the Exxon station on Saturday, Sept. 21, a day after the attack. “We came here yesterday to get gas, and ended up getting beat,” she said. “I’m tired of feeling like, I’m alone, we’re alone out here. We support these people every day. I live up the street, I got to come to this gas station, and this is how we’re treated. I’m tired of it.”
Jamila Regan continued: “I’m not a victim. I survived this. I don’t want anybody to feel sorry for me; this is what happened. This is what it is. This is the life I live every day. This is how they feel. And when they can get away with it, they will….
“We can’t keep supporting these people. They don’t care about us,” Jamila Regan said, “they just care about the money we’re giving them.”
Jamila Regan ended with: “I want this gas station shut down!” to an enormous, affirmative reaction from the crowd.
The sisters contend that the gas for which they had prepaid began spilling out the gas pump and onto the ground because the pump was broken. When the sisters went back into the store to address the situation and try to get a $17 refund, the employees refused to give back the money. The argument turned into a physical altercation that’s made national headlines and reignited the negative feelings that other ethnicities have about African Americans.
“We’re not going to tolerate this anymore,” Pittsburgh NAACP President Richard A. Stewart Jr. said during a news conference at the gas station, Monday, Sept. 23. “These are our women. We were born from a woman. I don’t know who those gentlemen were, I don’t know if you treat your lady folks that way, but you’re not going to keep treating ours like that.”
Also at the Sept. 23 news conference, Annette Regan, a cousin of the two sisters, told the Courier that she thinks the men are “punks.”
Annette Regan said her cousins are “hurt, mentally hurt. My one cousin, this was her first fight. She has never fought in her life, so you could imagine you’re this old, never get in a fight, and then you’re fighting men. So it’s pretty devastating to the family.”
Annette Regan told the crowd that “if it had been a boyfriend, he would have been arrested.”
“Men, you don’t hit on women,” Annette Regan said. “Do you hit your women? No. Do you hit your mother? No. Then don’t hit mine.”
Genafie Jones, who was raised and still lives on the North Side, was one of the many supporters decrying the attack. She was a regular customer at the Exxon station, spending hundreds of dollars per month on gas to fill up her Chevrolet Tahoe. And, “my kids love their donuts,” she told the Courier. But she said there’s been numerous times she had to alert the gas station owners about the problems with the gas pumps not working, so she understands the Regan sisters’ contention of a faulty gas pump.
The gas station owners’ actions against the Regan sisters was “totally unacceptable,” Jones said. “Some words got you that upset for you to come out here and beat them down?”
Jones, who has an undergraduate and master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, said when she first saw the video, she was “furious.”
Jones added: “I’m a changed citizen and have a degree, I have a good job, but I’m going to be real honest with you. I wanted to revert back to the old me. I got in my truck and I came down to this gas station, but it was closed through the grace of God. It’s sad that it’s 2019 and we’re still going through this.”
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