BELLEVILLE, Missouri — A Belleville West High School student was beaten aboard a bus on the way to school Monday, and a police spokesman said the beating could be racially motivated.
The 17-year-old victim was white and the teen assailants were black. Police released a video of the beating, which shows the victim being punched repeatedly while other students on the bus gather to watch, some cheering. It doesn't appear that the victim did anything to provoke an attack and tried only to defend himself. Police said it all unfolded in a five-minute span.
The victim was trying to find a seat and was told by two students he could not sit next to them, police said. When he did sit down, one teen tried to push him out of his seat then began grabbing the victim's neck and punching him in the face.
The victim eventually returned to his seat, but another student began taunting him a few minutes later. The victim was then struck in the face.
It was unclear what, if anything, the bus driver did to stop the attack. Students intervened to help the victim both times.
"In my estimation, it's racially motivated," said Capt. Don Sax of the Belleville Police Department. He said one reason he had formed this opinion was that many of the students, most of whom were black, yelled their support for the beating.
"There was absolutely no justification for the beating either time," Sax said.
Two teens were taken into custody; authorities will apply for charges today. Both students have been suspended, said Superintendent Greg Moats.
He also said there had been no racial problems at the school and said that he wanted to talk further with police to determine why they believe race could have been a motivator in the fight. He also said the school will do everything possible to make sure students are safe, but he wouldn't elaborate.
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