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Bus passengers detain mother after boy allegedly hit

Woman charged in assault on son, 1

A security camera from the bus captured video of Erica Ryan (left) drawing her arm back and hitting her son’s mouth, officials say. A security camera from the bus captured video of Erica Ryan (left) drawing her arm back and hitting her son’s mouth, officials say.
By Vivian Yee
Globe Correspondent / August 4, 2011

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As their Route 23 bus lumbered into Roxbury on Tuesday afternoon, Talia Burrell heard the young woman sitting across from her scold her 1-year-old son.

The mother’s complaints escalated into yelling as she hurled obscenities at the fussing child. And then, Burrell said, the woman drew a closed fist and punched the toddler in the face, bloodying his mouth. The sound could be heard throughout the front end of the bus.

Burrell and others rushed to confront the woman, identified by police as Erica Ryan, 25. They blocked Ryan from getting off the bus and called police, Burrell recalled in an interview.

Ryan was arraigned yesterday in Roxbury District Court on one charge of assault and battery on a child causing injury. Her bail was set at $500.

Police said they were called to Warren and Brunswick streets at 3:35 p.m. after receiving reports that a passenger on the bus had struck her child. At the intersection they found “a hostile group circled around a woman holding an infant.’’ With some difficulty, police separated Ryan and the child from the group of upset people, according to the police report.

“No one is going to take away my baby,’’ Ryan told police, who caught up to her after she broke away and ran down the street, crying hysterically, the report said.

Police said at least three witnesses said that they first heard Ryan directing vulgarities and racial slurs at the child when he refused to eat.

Burrell recalled yesterday that Ryan had been feeding her son from a plate of rice and other food. Burrell said she saw Ryan try to give the child a piece of boneless sparerib, which he refused. He reached for the rice instead, angering Ryan, Burrell said.

A security camera from the bus captured video of the mother drawing her arm back and hitting her son’s mouth, snapping his head back against his stroller, according to Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Esther Lainé.

“She cocks back and punches him to the point where you could hear it,’’ Burrell said, adding that after Ryan hit him, the hand he used to touch his mouth was streaked with blood. When he cried, Burrell said, his spit was bloody.

Police said in their report that when officers arrived, the child had dried blood around his mouth.

As they waited for police, some passengers said they approached Ryan and expressed concern for the child’s well-being, according to the report.

“No one will tell me how to be a parent,’’ she allegedly told passengers, her speech laced with obscenities.

According to the report, she told police that her hand had slipped while feeding the child and she accidentally hit him.

The toddler was taken to Boston Medical Center for treatment. He was later released to his grandfather’s care.

At Ryan’s arraignment, Lainé asked Judge David Weingarten to set bail at $25,000, a figure merited, she said, by the severity of the assault. Lainé said the bus security video appears to support what passengers told police.

“This individual punches a . . . child to the extent that you can see the force of the punch and his head pops back,’’ Lainé said. “It’s an alarming situation.’’

But Ryan’s court-appointed lawyer, Adelio DeMiranda, emphasized that Ryan has no prior criminal record. He also questioned whether the child was hurt.

“There are some major ifs in this case, one of which is: Did he suffer any injuries other than some dried blood on the side of his mouth?’’ said DeMiranda. He asked the judge to release Ryan on personal recognizance, adding that she had no way of coming up with the “excessive’’ sum of $25,000.

Ryan appeared only briefly, concealing herself from view behind a door for most of the arraignment. DeMiranda said she has a medical condition that prevents her from seeking a job.

After conferring with both lawyers, Weingarten set bail at $500, with the stipulation that Ryan stay away from her son if released. By yesterday afternoon, she had not yet posted bail.

Her lawyer declined further comment.

Vivian Yee can be reached at vyee@globe.com.