Police are looking for a woman shown on raw video brutally beating a mother in front of a crowd of onlookers — some of whom are seen recording the incident on their cellphones — while the victim's toddler son was the lone individual who attempted to intervene.
The suspect was identified as Latia Harris, 25, NJ.com reported, citing Salem Chief of Police John J. Pelura III. The Salem, New Jersey, woman faces charges of aggravated assault and two counts of making terroristic threats. TheBlaze reached out to Salem police on Thursday for an update its pursuit of Harris but the calls were not returned.
"Police in this county deal with this type of violence every day," Pelura told NJ.com."Yet, this video is physically sickening to watch."
The video shows bystanders watching as the victim was thrown to the ground, punched about 20 times in the head and face, and kicked in the back. During the beating, the attacker is heard yelling at the victim, cursing, and saying something about losing her job.
The victim's 2-year-old son appears to be the lone individual who intervened, pleading for the attack to stop and kicking at the attacker's leg — and the attacker at one point threatened to kick the boy in his face.
Reactions from witnesses sound akin to "oohs" and "ahhs" you might hear at a sporting event.
The attacker is seen spitting on the victim before walking away. NJ.com reported that the attacker asked those who recorded the incident to not post it online.
The victim, a 27-year-old Salem resident, was left lying on the grass with blood in her hands from the beating to her face. The assault reportedly occurred Tuesday evening on a path between a McDonald's restaurant and an apartment complex.
Officers were called to the scene "for a woman who was covered in blood and appeared to have been assaulted" around 7:10 p.m., Pelura told NJ.com, adding that the victim was "disoriented, confused and bleeding from the face." She was transported to a hospital for treatment.
According to the victim, the woman who attacked her is named "Tia" and works at McDonald's, Pelura said, adding that the attacker "accused her of spreading rumors about her and her manager." The video shows the attacker dressed in what looks like a McDonald's employee uniform (a burgundy shirt and black pants).
Pelura said it's reprehensible that witnesses recorded the incident but did nothing to intervene.
"There is a moral and social breakdown in the fabric of our society which is clearly evident when a woman gets pummeled in broad daylight in front of her child while a dozen people pull out their phones to record the incident instead of calling for help," he told NJ.com. "There is so little regard for human life — by the actor and the bystanders."
Here's the clip (CONTENT WARNING for extremely violent images and language):
UPDATE, 2:53 p.m.: Police were still searching Thursday for Harris through family members, and her bail has been set at $35,000, according to NJ.com.
Harris' arrest warrant notes she was "threatening to shoot the victim while punching her about the face" and authorities charge she attempted to "cause significant bodily injury" to the victim "under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life."
The victim has been left with "limited function" of her left eye, numerous bruises and a broken nose, police said.
Harris carried out the attack while she was on duty at McDonald's, police said, adding that Harris followed the victim out of the restaurant. Harris hasn't returned to work since the attack; her manager at McDonald's declined to comment to NJ.com and a request for comment from McDonald's corporate has not been returned, the news outlet said.
Police added that Harris' last known address, a Salem City Housing Authority complex, was "vacant."
UPDATE, 6:44 p.m.: Tearful beating victim Catherine Ferreira told WPVI-TV in Philadelphia on Thursday that the bystanders who didn't intervene in attack — especially those who were videotaping it — "didn't understand that I could have been dead right now. If she hit me in the right spot, it would have been over. McDonald's isn't worth it, a guy isn't worth it."
Investigators believe Harris thought Ferreira, a one-time coworker, had spread rumors about a romantic relationship between Harris and a work supervisor, the station said, adding that while Ferreira admitted she spoke about the pair, she didn't believe it justified an attack.
"It was brief conversation between me and two other girls," Ferreira told WPVI-TV. "It's not as serious as to break anybody's nasal cavity or bone or nose period." She added that she suffered a mild concussion and a broken nose during the attack.
Ferreira said her 2-year-old son, who tried to fend of the assault, "wasn't afraid, he just wanted to defend his mom. That's my world right there, I love that boy so much."
Jim Burlaga, owner and operator of the McDonald's where Harris worked, released a statement:
"I am aware of the incident involving one of my employees earlier this week. I am extremely disturbed by this kind of behavior and it goes against the values and standards that I expect from my employees in my restaurants. This employee will not be serving customers pending this important police investigation and I'm fully cooperating with the local police in this matter."
This story has been updated.