“I was just minding my own business. It was the last thing I expected,” said Rowley, a former federal prosecutor who lives in Northern Virginia.
Rowley said the teens started punching him and pushing him toward the edge of the platform. He threw out one hand to stop himself from being pushed onto the tracks, but the train on the platform had begun to depart. Rowley said he broke his hand while trying to push himself away from the train.
“We are actually thankful the train was there because otherwise, he would have ended up on the tracks,” his daughter, Suzanne Ferguson, said.
Onlookers yelled and screamed for the teens to stop. One man, who said he was a George Washington University Law School student, jumped into the fray and tried to pull the assailants off Rowley.
“He took some of the punches that were intended for me,” Rowley said.
At some point, the teenagers fled, and several women on the platform called police. Rowley stayed on the platform, assessing his cuts and bruises. He says he had no idea why the teenagers targeted him.
“I didn’t know these guys. I didn’t look at them. They didn’t try to rob me. They just wanted to beat up on someone,” he said.
It took four to five minutes for Metro Transit Police to arrive, Rowley said. The officers used video surveillance footage to review the altercation and track down the people involved. Officers arrested “the two primary aggressors” at Union Station and charged them with aggravated assault, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said. Both of the alleged assailants were under the age of 18.
Though Rowley and the law school student were both interviewed by police, Rowley didn’t catch the man’s name. He wants to track him down and thank him, again, for coming to his defense.
“I consider him to be a hero. He didn’t have to jump in,” Rowley said. “I just want to thank him, and to let people know that there are really good people out there, who are willing to do the right thing regardless of the cost.”
While Rowley broke his hand during the episode, and has an assortment of cuts and bruises his daughter recognizes that his injuries may have been far more serious without help from a stranger.
“Most people would not have done what he did,” Ferguson said. “I am just so thankful to him because my father’s injuries could have been so much worse.”
Rowley said he also wants to draw attention to the need for increased police visibility at busy stations like Gallery Place during peak periods.
“The police were very helpful once they showed up, but there was no police presence on a very crowded platform at rush hour, and by the time they got there these young hoodlums had already left,” Rowley said. “If people are going to ride Metro, they have to know that they can do so safely.”
As for his own upcoming commutes, Rowley acknowledged that it will likely be awhile before he mentally recovers from the ordeal.
“I won’t be riding Metro anytime soon,” he said.