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San Diego Man Who Beat Teen Syrian Refugee On Trolley For Speaking Arabic Pleads Guilty To Hate Crime

FOX 5/YouTube, CBS 8/YouTube

On Monday, November 4, Adrian Richard Vergara, 26, pleaded guilty to assault and hate crime charges after attacking a Syrian refugee on a trolly for speaking Arabic.

Earlier this month, Vergara approached an unnamed Syrian teen who was on a San Diego trolley returning home from high school. The teen was speaking with a friend on the phone when Vergara pulled out the high schooler’s headphones and asked:

“What trash are you speaking?”

When the teen replied “Arabic,” Vergara attacked him, punching him in the face and yelling:

“F*** Arabs!”

Police arrested Vergara on October 22 for a drug-related crime that had nothing to do with the incident.

He was then recognized from the trolley’s security footage.

Vergara has an extensive criminal record, including past threats and assaults, but the Syrian teen wasn’t as bothered by Vergara’s behavior as he was by that of his fellow passengers.

He told The San Diego Union-Tribune:

“It wasn’t just what happened that made me mad and made me sad. It was the silence of the others. … Why they didn’t help me? Why they did nothing while I was being beaten?”

The high schooler’s family moved to the U.S. in 2016 after fleeing the battles in Syria. Shortly after moving here, his older brother was the victim of a hate crime, but the family decided to keep it to themselves.

“We came to this country under the belief that we would have civil rights and liberties and safety. When the attack happened to my brother we realized that this wasn’t true for everyone.”

This time, however, the family couldn’t hold their tongue any longer.

“I am still dealing with the trauma from this and I don’t want the attention. However, I urge others who are victims of such attacks to speak up….”

“It is important to seek justice when you experience a hate crime to ensure that such incidents don’t continue to happen in our community. To all the people who are attacking our community: Don’t judge us without knowing us.”

Hate crimes have been steadily rising for since 2016. It’s become obvious there is something wrong in parts of our culture that must be addressed so we can move forward as a country that supposedly values diversity, freedom and equality.

The book The Anatomy of Organized Hate: Stories of Former White Supremacists – and America’s Struggle to Understand the Hate Movement is available here.


Written by Collin Gossel

Collin Gossel is a writer and comedian living in Brooklyn, New York, but there are nights when he looks up at the stars and wistfully thinks to himself “there’s got to be more out there…” You can catch Collin improvising new musicals every Tuesday night at the Magnet Theater’s Musical Megawatt, or follow his unfiltered thoughts on Twitter and Instagram @CollinGossel.--