Mob mentality a factor in Winton Terrace beating video? Experts weigh in

An image from the video of the incident.
An image from the video of the incident.

Cell phone video recorded the stripping, beating and robbery of two women at Winton Terrace last week. After the incident, the video was posted on Facebook.

Three women are in custody and another remains at large for the incident. 

FOX19 has learned that one of the suspects was involved in a similar attack before. Court records show Jakeda Phillips, who is still at large, was accused of stripping and beating another woman back in 2011.

An arrest warrant has been issued for 25-year-old Phillips. LaShawnda Jones and Geawnna Higgins turned themselves in on Sunday evening.

The fourth suspect, Kianna McMeans, was locked up on Friday with a 50-thousand dollar bond.

Police say the public helped identify the suspects in the cell phone video of the sisters' beating, but the incident begs the questions of how can violent attacks like this happen?

FOX19's Gordon Graham spoke with mental health experts for some insight.

It happens in school yards, sporting events and prisons when experts indicate that normally civilized people become swept up in a mob mentality that strips even nicest people of their humanity. Central Clinic Director, Dr. Walter Smitson says the mob sees the victims as less than human.

"When mob behavior begins there's a certain anonymity that occurs. In other words, the on lookers tend to abandon their own values, their own personalities even. They become mesmerized by what's happening,"  explained Dr. Smitson.

The video shows two victims being punched and kicked repeatedly by attackers, something  Dr. Stephen Strakowski with UC College of Medicine indicates can be associated with a sense of anonymity.

"The other thing about mobs is it gives you historically a chance to be anonymous and so you can behave in this affiliation without taking any personal responsibility,"  said Dr. Strakowski.

Dr. Smitson points out mob rule can be a double edged sword.

"Look at Martin Luther King and Ghandi the way they were able to influence huge numbers of people to be peaceful so the same dynamic occurs of course when somebody begins a violent act or violent behavior,"  she said.

The video also clearly shows several bystanders with some even taking pictures.

"Onlookers may have a lot of frustrations themselves about life, about their cultural issues and system issues so often times they're vicariously expressing some of their own frustrations by just watching it happen," Dr. Smitson said, explaining possibilities as to why no one intervened.

Videos of attacks are sometimes posted on social media, but Dr. Strakowski says that may have some benefits.

"The good news about the filming is maybe at some point the anonymity may no longer be present so maybe some of this will diminish. In fact in this particular incident you can see a lot of the other people involved in this because they're on video so now we can hold them  responsible."

The victim are sisters ages 20 and 21 and are recovering from their injuries. However, one of them is facing an assault charge herself from a separate incident.

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