첥Ƶ

Skip to content

SUBSCRIBER ONLY

Crime and Public Safety |
Beating of Chester County man lands alleged vigilante in prison on $1 million bail

Self-proclaimed child predator vigilante forced his way into 73-year-old man's house and got a "confession" at hammer point.

Mugshot of Ahmad Wasfi Al-Azzam
Courtesy of West Chester Police Department
Ahmad Wasfi Al-Azzam (Courtesy of West Chester Police Department)
Author
UPDATED:

WEST CHESTER — A Chester County man who reportedly assaulted at least two men in an attempt to seek revenge on people he believed to be child predators is being held in Chester County Prison on $1 million bail after his arrest on assault, kidnapping and robbery charges earlier this month.

According to a West Chester police criminal complaint, Ahmad Wasfi Al-Azzam forced his way into an elderly borough resident’s home in May, tied him up, beat him with a hammer in the face and head for an hour, and robbed him of his car keys, phone and cash.

During the assault, Al-Azzam allegedly filmed the man, who was 73 years old at the time, and whom he had met in an online chat room, and forced him to make statements about being a pedophile, threatening him with violence if he did not.

Douglas Kilpatrick / SPECIAL TO THE MORNING CALL
Ahmad Wasfi Al-Azzam (Courtesy of West Chester Police Department)

Police said that Al-Azzam also posted at least six videos of the beating — as well as other incidents from that night — in which the man is seen bound hand and foot. At one point, the victim is told to look at the camera and “say sorry for trying to meet up with a 15-year-old.”

There is no evidence that the man, who is not identified in the affidavit by West Chester Detective Cpl. Jerry Ferriola, was a pedophile or engaged in any illegal sexual activity with a minor.

Al-Azzam, 26, of Uwchlan, was taken into custody on June 11 and interviewed. At the time, he implicated himself in the West Chester assault, according to Ferriola’s complaint.

He is charged with kidnapping to facilitate a felony, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, criminal trespass, terroristic threats, possession of an instrument of crime, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, theft, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief.

Al-Azzam was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge Marc Leiberman, who set bail at $1 million. A preliminary hearing is set for July 12. A phone call to Al-Azzam’s attorney, Eliot Marc Cohen of Philadelphia, on Friday was not immediately returned.

According to Ferriola’s complaint, Al-Azzam is a suspect in at least two other possible assaults, one unconfirmed in Phoenixville, and one confirmed in Mount Laurel, N.J. Images of the two incidents were posted on an Instagram account that Al-Azzam allegedly maintained, “realjuujika,” and shows a masked man stalking people at night and slapping one person in the face who promises “not to do it again.”

The investigation

The investigation began on May 26 when Ferriola and Detective Greg Cugino responded to Penn Presbyterian Hospital to interview the victim from West Chester, who was being treated for a “brain bleed” he suffered in an attack in his home in the borough’s southwest end.

During three interviews, the man told officers that between May 18 and May 22, he had been in a chatroom conversing with an unknown person who said he was 18 years old.

At some point, that person stated he was actually only 15 years old, and the man said he could not continue the conversation. The other person then offered to send him a gift, which the man accepted.

He was told a Lyft driver would soon deliver a milkshake and two cheeseburgers.

At about 11 p.m. that night — the man was not able to recall the exact date but investigators believe it was May 20 — someone knocked on his door and when he went to open it, a person, who was wearing a black mask, forced his way inside and bound his hands with packing tape.

He proceeded to beat him with a small hammer for about an hour.

He used a cellphone to record the beating, and forced the man to make statements about being a pedophile. He then ransacked the house, took the man’s wallet with cash and credit cards, and also the keys to his car, which was parked outside.

The man then told him not to bother calling the police because he had “a very fast car.”

When the man went outside the next day, he saw that three of the tires on his car had been slashed. He did not immediately call police.

The ‘realjuujika’

In response to a tip, detectives were able to review videos on Instagram tied to the “realjuujika” account.

Juujika is a Japanese literary character who seeks vengeance on those who had bullied him. They watched six videos of the assault on the man, and others from what was purported to be an assault on an alleged predator in Phoenixville.

When investigators contacted Phoenixville police, they learned that that department was investigating an incident involving a self-proclaimed child predator vigilante who was part of an organization called Juujika. The incident in which a man dressed in ninja attire — all black, with a balaclava — spoke with officers about his work catching men trying to meet young boys was noted by officers as occurring on May 1.

Phoenixville police were able to identify a car the man drove, and linked it to Wasfi Al-Azzam, the suspect’s father. But when they looked at his records, Wasfi Al-Azzam was too old to have been the man they encountered. They determined it was instead his son, Ahmad Wasfi Al-Azzam.

Because the man in Phoenixville had spoken about an incident he was involved with in New Jersey, borough investigators contacted police in Mount Laurel, who confirmed they had an open case involving a beating in a Dick’s Sporting Goods parking lot.

The suspect in that case was driving the same kind of car that had been identified in Phoenixville.

West Chester police were later able to track a Range Rover registered to Wasfi Al-Azzam, using license plate readers, and saw it enter the borough on May 20 around 10:30.

Then, using surveillance cameras from West Chester University, saw a man get out of a Range Rover and walk to the victim’s home. It left at a high rate of speed about 45 minutes later.

On June 10, detectives interviewed Al-Azzam at the borough police headquarters. In the interviews, which were recorded, Al-Azzam admitted being the creator and owner of the Instagram account, and admitted having items that police had found in his home and tied them to the beating, including a small hammer.

While initially he denied having anything to do with the assault on the older man, he ultimately admitted that he was the person seen in the videos beating him. He admitted slashing the tires on the man’s car.

No charges have been filed involving the incident in Phoenixville. Questions about possible charges in New Jersey were not answered after an email was sent.

To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.

Originally Published:

More in Crime and Public Safety