Cal State Fullerton student Amaryah Tarkington headed home on an earlier December evening to finish up her part of a group project. The finals week task, due the very next day, was one she never got the chance to complete.
The 29-year-old took an Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) bus from campus en route to Anaheim. Everyone who boarded was packed like sardines, according to her, and the ride started off innocuously enough.
"I was sitting...listening to my music," Tarkington tells the Weekly. A seat next to her opened up and was taken by her eventual assailant, one of many more to join in the fray before the whole ordeal's end.
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A young child seated on her mother's lap began kicking the college student with the tip of her shoes. "Can you please watch your daughter's feet?" Tarkington recalls asking her after tolerating it for awhile. The passenger apparently didn't take too kindly to the request. The little girl then rested her foot on her until Tarkington took it off.
"Don't hit my daughter," she remembers hearing loudly from the child's mother. Then came the first punch. Others jumped in the fray. "People who didn't have anything to do with it starting hitting me," Tarkington says, feeling she was judged much too quickly without being even given the chance to refute the charge to the other passengers.
The bus stopped on Harbor Boulevard in Anaheim near the headquarters of the city's police department. Officers arrived on scene but since the assault took place on an OCTA bus, jurisdiction falls to the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD).
OCSD spokesperson Gail Krause informs the Weekly that the investigation into the December 7, 2012 assault is ongoing, adding that bus riders were "detained immediately following the incident" but that "the alleged victim could not identify the assailant." Tarkington acknowledges being overwhelmed by the numerous individuals she says struck her that evening, but contends that the bus doors had opened out and that those responsible had fled.
After the ordeal, she was sent to the West Anaheim Medical Center for sustained injuries. She photographed them herself since no one else did. The pictures show numerous scratches, bruises, cuts, and lacerations to Tarkington's face, head, lower back and knees. She reports that she suffered the most pain, not from facial injuries, but from those to her back and neck, which caused her to file an emergency withdrawal from classes.
There's film footage of the incident, but as the investigation remains open, the Weekly has not been able to obtain it. When we asked the OCSD to release even a still frame in the hopes that the public could identify some of Tarkington's assailants, they refused. At the time of this writing, Tarkington herself is still in the process of trying to obtain the report, a lag she laments.
As an African-American woman, Tarkington definitely believes that her skin color played a role in the reactionary response of others to join in after the first punch. She describes her assailants as Latinos to her best judgement. When asked if anyone hurled a racist epithet her way, the student says she thought she heard someone call her a "nigger" when other passengers complained about a man who had hit her.
Tarkington moved out of a bad situation in Long Beach and into Anaheim to be closer to school. She has only lived in the city since August but with this experience and others, it definitely feels like no welcoming mat has been rolled out. The student has also taken notice in the media of other experiences black folk in OC have endured lately.
"All of this," she says, "is making me wish more and more that I didn't even have to stay here at all."