Why Did No One Help Hit-and-Run Victim?

Outraged Hartford police chief says residents have "lost their moral compass."

ByABC News via logo
June 6, 2008, 9:37 AM

June 6, 2008 — -- A disturbing surveillance video showing an elderly man getting hit by a car and then being ignored by bystanders has shocked and shamed many in Hartford, Conn.

Angel Arce Torres, 78, was trying to cross the street when a Honda plowed into him, sending him flying and leaving him lying crumpled and bleeding in the middle of the street. The driver of the car did not stop; but, even more disturbingly, passing cars and people on the sidewalk nearby did nothing to help Torres.

As Torres lay in the street, nine cars passed him without stopping. More than 40 seconds went by before anyone even stepped off the sidewalk to get a closer look. But no one went over to Torres' body to try to help or even divert traffic.

Finally, after about a minute and a half, a police car responding to a different call happened upon the scene and an ambulance was called.

The accident occurred last Friday, but Hartford's police chief released the traffic surveillance video on Wednesday, hoping to get information on the hit-and-run driver and make an arrest.

Chief Daryl Roberts also expressed outrage in a news conference Wednesday, saying "we no longer have a moral compass."

"It's a clear indication of what we have become when you see a man laying in the street, hit by a car and just drive around him," Roberts said.

On Thursday, Roberts did say that four people called 911 after the accident.

Park Street, where Torres was hit, is part of a notorious high-crime area, with many residents unwilling to help police or be labeled a "snitch" by others.

People in the neighborhood struggled to explain why no one helped a seriously injured elderly man.

"This area here is hot, a lot of bad stuff," one man who declined to give his name told ABC News. "I gotta go now."

When asked why people wouldn't call for help, he said, "If you want to, but you're involved then."

Randy Cohen, who writes "The Ethicist" column for the New York Times, says a kind of herd mentality can take over during stressful situations or when someone needs help.

"When you are part of a group of people and you observe someone in need, there's a crisis, it's very difficult to get the first person to act," Cohen said.

Torres is reportedly in critical condition at Hartford Hospital.

Torres' son, Angel Arce Torres Jr., refuses to watch the video. "I can't see it," he said. "Even if you see a dog or an animal out in the street, you help them. And that hurts."