Who Is My Neighbor? In Virginia, Not-So-Good Samaritans Ignore Dying Victim

Why would good people ignore a man who lay dying on the sidewalk?  Is it a prejudice that says “Oh, he’s just a drunk”?  A fear of getting involved?  Laziness, or a lack of empathy?  A failure to realize the gravity of his injuries?

On July 1, a man was struck by a vehicle near an Arlington, Virginia bus stop.  Thrown to the sidewalk, the dying man lay face down and motionless. 

And here’s the part that’s hard to understand:  Bus surveillance video shows that not just one, but many bystanders simply walked past and did nothing to help.  Someone had called 911; but the line of modern-day Samaritans climbing aboard the bus looked at the man, then boarded and went on with their lives.  One man, perhaps understanding the seriousness of the situation, made the Sign of the Cross as he paid his fare and took his seat.

Detectives in Arlington, hoping to identify witnesses who might be able to explain what happened, released the surveillance video this week.  The driver of the vehicle has been cooperative, but police hope to obtain corroborating testimony from others who may have seen the incident. 

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalemto Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”


  • Oregon Catholic

    That is really sad but I suspect that if there were no signs of trauma most people assumed he was passed out drunk, not injured. There are many homeless where I live and unfortunately it is common to see many passed out in doorways and along sidewalks on my way to work, especially in the summer. Frankly, it isn’t safe to disturb them to find out if they are injured or in need of medical help. It’s very sad there isn’t more real help for them. Portland is a very homeless friendly city but I don’t think we do the homeless any favors at all.

  • daisy

    Perhaps they thought he was drunk or high. I would have only called 911 if I saw blood. Otherwise, it’s night and an urban area so assume that he’s impaired and dangerous and keep moving.

  • John Campbell

    In both cases, the story contains no details about how much anyone knew about the cause or nature and extent of the injuries

  • Fr Don

    LOOKING FOR EXPLANATIONS: People sometimes feel helpless, confused and bewildered by such a thing. It is so out-of-site-out-of-mind for us who run on habitual reaction mode that we don’t connect the scene with action. Or, many of us are so fearful of the mugger’s ploy for ambush because of the many stories told of similar situations that we refuse to act out of self preservation.

  • http://www.withouthavingseen.com Ryan Haber

    Yeah, I wonder how different things are from back in Jesus’ day? I mean, it’s not like their were highway robbers back then, right? Wait, what was it they accused those guys of doing, the ones on Jesus’ right and left over on Mt. Calvary?
    More seriously, it is legitimate to say that one has serious duties that prohibit taking grave risks: a parent of small children isn’t free to be nice to strangers at the expense of his or her children. Usually, though, the actual risk is less grave than we expect – and the legitimate discomfort and fear are greater than we pretend they were. We do have to work to match our comfort levels to our actual abilities, and act based not on fear, but on what we can actually do to help. With a bunch of witnesses standing around watching, checking for a pulse doesn’t seem too courageous to ask for.
    On the other hand, a bachelor like myself has no excuse. Nobody depends upon me for life itself, so I am freer to give parts or all of myself. I am free to stop along a roadside during the night, which is the most dangerous time to help a “stranded traveler,” and of course, that is precisely the reason they need help the most.

  • http://anjipatchwork.blogspot.com Anji

    it’s a few years ago now, but when my daughter was a 1st year psychology student this was something that they studied. It appears that the majority of people assume that someone else is better qualified to deal with the situation. They aren’t bad or uncaring, just human.

    The good news is that if you are aware of this fact, you will be more likely to try to help next time!
    I live in France where you can be arrested for non-help to a person in danger, I’m not sure that the fear of prosecution changes the statistics…

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