Jamila and Aisha Regan speak out during Sept. 27 press conference

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JAMILA REGAN is comforted by attorney Todd Hollis as she speaks to reporters, Sept. 27. (Photos by Rob Taylor Jr.)

by Rob Taylor Jr., Courier Staff Writer

What a difference one week can make.

On Friday, Sept. 20, the Regan sisters, Jamila and Ashia, were simply trying to get gas for their vehicle at the Exxon on Brighton Road and Marshall Avenue.

Exactly one week later, Friday, Sept. 27, they were seated Downtown, in a room, facing television cameras.

They never thought that a simple trip to their neighborhood gas station would result in being attacked by multiple male employees of the gas station, all because of the employees reportedly not wanting to reimburse the Black women for gas that spilled onto the ground as a result of a faulty gas pump.

“I’m not sure which one word best describes the feeling of hurt, anger and fear. That’s how I felt at the time me and my sister were being targeted by these men,” Jamila Regan, 25, said in front of those television cameras, with sister Ashia, 27, and attorney Todd Hollis by her side. “The moment I articulated our concerns, my credibility was discredited. To face individuals who have no regard for you in the face of conflict is life-threatening. I was fearful for my life and that of my sister. The pain we had to endure and the memories will not soon dissipate. It will take time to heal.”

THE REGAN SISTERS hug one another after the Sept. 27 press conference.

Jamila Regan said she felt an “extreme feeling” of being alone, “the feeling that no one cared about us,” after the attack occurred. The Regan sisters lost their mother to Huntington’s chorea, a disease that gradually kills brain cells, in 2011.

“My mom raised us to be strong Black women who always stick by each other no matter what before she got sick,” Ashia Regan said. “Losing our mom, that was traumatic for the both of us, but we had each other—still do, and always will. We are strong Black sisters who stick together. We are hard-working citizens who deserve to be respected. We are hard-working, taxpaying Americans…as customers we deserve to be treated with respect. We are not thugs, we are not animals; we are human beings.”

A review of all available video—including the cellphone video recorded by a person outside the gas station, along with the surveillance video from inside the gas station—resulted in Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala charging Balkar “Bill” Singh, Sukhjinder “Simon” Sadhra, 35, and Scott Hill, 50, with simple assault, a second-grade misdemeanor. A count of criminal conspiracy also was levied on Hill and Singh.

No charges were filed against the Regan sisters.

Hollis, who will file a civil lawsuit on behalf of the Regan sisters after the employees’ criminal case is resolved, directed the media’s attention to the conference room wall, which had enlarged photos of the men beating his clients outside the gas station from the cellphone video. They are images that have been viewed all across the Pittsburgh region—and the country.

“These pictures that you see on the wall are representative of people who had no callousness, no concern and who viciously acted to dehumanize a human being—a woman, a defenseless woman,” Hollis said at the Sept. 27 press conference. “And my office will never stand for that. And I feel a personal indictment as a man that I wasn’t there and I couldn’t protect them. But what I couldn’t do at that gasoline station, we will do in court.”

ATTORNEY TODD HOLLIS, center, said he “guarantees” that “every resource in my office will be devoted to making sure that the Regan sisters get justice. I don’t care if I spend every dime in my bank account, it will happen.” (Photo by Courier photographer Rob Taylor Jr.

On Thursday, Sept. 26, LGP Realty Holdings LP, the owner of the land and assets of where the Exxon gas station is located (2501 Brighton Rd.), announced they had terminated the lease of the independent operator of the gas station. “We have immediately started working to find a new operator for the location who can serve the community’s needs,” the statement read.

The move by LGP Realty Holdings LP was a step in the right direction, according to state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington. He, along with state Rep. Jake Wheatley, whose district includes the North Side, said what should come next are stronger charges against the three men. City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle and other Black elected leaders, are also calling on Zappala to upgrade the charges from simple assault to aggravated assault.

But so far, Zappala hasn’t budged.

“It makes no sense,” Rep. Gainey said after the Regan sisters spoke at the Sept. 27 press conference. “…What message does this continue to send our community? …How many in here have daughters, sisters, mothers? Would you want yours to go through that, and (the attackers) be filed with simple assault? This is a message to Greater Pittsburgh of how people are seen. And I’m hoping that we can have a better day and that the right charges can be filed for the savage beating they put on these two sisters right here. The community will not stop until justice is served.”

Hollis said the men charged with the attack only saw women outside the gas station, and not the “Ed Gaineys, the Jake Wheatleys, the Todd Hollises” and other Black community leaders who would be standing beside the Regan sisters.

“One thing I will guarantee is that every resource in my office will be devoted to making sure that the Regan sisters get justice,” Hollis said. “I don’t care if I spend every dime in my bank account, it will happen.”

Jamila Regan acknowledged the immense support that she and her sister have received from Pittsburgh’s African American community. She said it was proof that “we are not alone, and we have never been alone, and our mom continues to watch over us.”

Ashia Regan said that no matter how the criminal or civil cases pan out, the events that occurred at their neighborhood gas station on Sept. 27 will stick with the sisters forever.

“This is something we’re going to have to deal with probably for the rest of our lives, because we live right on the North Side, right close to the gas station, and we drive past there on our way to work, drive past there on our way home,” she said. “So that’s something that’s going to always be with us. Always.”

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