With Three Suspects Arrested, LGBT Community Hopes For More Answers In Philly Attack On Gay Couple
Update: All three suspects were arraigned overnight, posted bail, and will be back in court for a preliminary hearing later this month, authorities told BuzzFeed News.
With the arrests Wednesday of three people in connection with a brutal group assault on a gay couple in Philadelphia earlier this month, Pennsylvania LGBT advocates hope to learn more details about the attack and whether additional people were involved.
"If you look at the surveillance pictures released and see the number of people there — it is a little disturbing there were only three people charged," said Ted Martin, executive director of statewide LGBT rights group Equality Pennsylvania. "I'm hoping there is more investigating being done and more people brought to justice if they were involved. I want the police to do a fair and balanced investigation — that's what we count on them to do, and I have to believe that there's more to it."
The Philadelphia district's attorney's office told BuzzFeed News that its part in this investigation is over, and Officer Tanya Little, a Philadelphia Police spokesperson said she doesn't believe investigators are pursuing additional suspects. This comes despite police surveillance footage showing about a dozen people who could have been involved in or present during the attack.
"I was glad to see arrests were made," said State Rep. Brian Sims, an out gay Philadelphia Democrat who is staging a rally Thursday to support the victims and call for expanding the state's hate crimes law. "I'm curious to hear the larger story. I want to know what's going on with the other nine or so people. I'm not going to say people are getting off the hook. I just want to find out what's going on."
Sims said he wonders if others in the group are cooperating with investigators.
"If the others were uninvolved, I want to know how they could have been uninvolved when the attack was happening," Sims said. "I want to know if maybe they are cooperating with police. That might mean that the nine people are helping to build a case against these three people. I honestly don't know."
Three people — Philip Williams, 24, and Kathryn Knott, 24, and Kevin Harrigan, 26 — turned themselves into police Wednesday morning after facing multiple assault charges filed Tuesday afternoon by the Philadelphia district attorney. Police released their mugshots Wednesday afternoon.
"Based on the evidence, along with statements from victims and eyewitnesses on the scene, these are the three people that assaulted the couple," Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for the DA said when reached by phone. Additionally, the three suspects were being arraigned Wednesday afternoon, she said.
Upon the arrests, authorities allege that the three people took part in the Sept. 11 attack on a gay couple in Philadelphia's Center City neighborhood that left the two men with multiple injuries. Previously, police said the victims were approached by a group of 10-12 men and women and some of them used anti-gay slurs before physically attacking the couple — holding them to the ground and hitting them in the face, head, and chest.
Louis Busico, an attorney representing Knott, said his client had nothing to do with the attack on the gay couple — that she was "merely present" when it occurred — and will plead "not guilty" when she eventually appears in court.
"Ms. Knott was with a group of friends who were celebrating a birthday at a BYOB establishment in Center City Philly," Busico told BuzzFeed News. "There was an encounter with two gentleman that escalated and there was a physical altercation between three men. She was not part of the altercation. At no point in time did she strike anyone that evening."
Additionally, Busico said his client has nothing against the LGBT community, saying, "Under any scenario, she doesn't have any animus against anyone in society regardless of their orientation." However, social media users and media reports have pointed to tweets from 2012 and 2013 in which Knott used anti-gay slurs.
NBC 10 reported Knott is the daughter of Chalfont, Pennsylvania's Police Chief Karl Knott. Busico confirmed that his client's father works in law enforcement, but would not say where.
The three suspects were charged with two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of simple assault, two counts of recklessly endangering another person (REAP), and one count of criminal conspiracy. The DA's office has said that anyone charged in the attack will not face hate crime charges because of Pennsylvania's hate crimes law, which currently only calls for more severe charges for crimes motivated by the victim's religion, race, or ethnicity.
In response to the attack and community outrage, a number of state lawmakers including Sims and Rep. Brendan Boyle are urgently pushing to expand the state's hate crimes law to include crimes motivated by a victims sexual orientation and gender identity to better protect LGBT citizens.
Following the news of the arrests, Kathryn Knott's employer, Abington Health, issued a statement saying she has been suspended from her job and that the company is investigating claims that she may have violated patient privacy in posts she made on Twitter, such as a post showing an ex-ray.
Another, more graphic post, includes a photo of two dismembered fingers in a bag and reads, "A patient gave me a bag of ice with his two fingers in it!"
Abington Health sent the following statement to BuzzFeed News:
"We can confirm that Kathryn Knott has been employed at Lansdale Hospital since May 2011. Because of the nature of the charges against her, she has been suspended from her job as an Emergency Room tech.
We are investigating an additional issue that was brought to our attention related to this employee’s Twitter account for potential violations of patient privacy and our organization’s social media policy. Abington Health takes patient privacy and confidentiality very seriously and is fully investigating this matter."
Overnight, all three suspects were arraigned for the charges and eventually released after posting bail. Kathryn Knott faced a $50,000 bail while both Philip Williams and Kevin Harrigan faced $75,000 bail each, a Philadelphia Police spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
Philadelphia District Attorney Spokeswoman Tasha Jamerson said arraigning suspects overnight is not unusual given the volume of suspects arrested in the city.
Jamerson told BuzzFeed News Knott, Williams, and Harrigan will be back in court for a preliminary hearing Sept. 30.