January 05, 2017
The active U.S. Army serviceman allegedly attacked Sunday after the Mummers Parade is recovering at his South Jersey home, according to a television report broadcast by Fox 29.
Austin Freni, 19, was allegedly beaten by a group of 11-12 men as he and his family left the parade festivities near Third Street and Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia late Sunday night.
On the broadcast, Lori Freni read a statement written by her son that said "the hardest part" was not being able to protect his family. Freni, who was wearing an Army jacket during the attack, reportedly sustained facial injuries that will require his mouth to be wired shut for the next eight weeks. The serviceman said in his statement:
"I ask (if) anyone could please step up, who might have seen something or know something. The biggest thing that I care about is that they are found. I am Infantry and I can bounce back. It is what we do."
About a dozen men allegedly began making derogatory remarks about the Army as Freni and his companions walked along the 400 block of Oregon Avenue, Freni's family told police. After a brief exchange of words, Freni was attacked and struck in the face.
His girlfriend and brother also told Fox 29 that they sustained minor injuries, too.
Police said on Thursday that they have not recovered any video of the alleged attack and do not have a more detailed description of the alleged attackers.
In the interview with Fox 29, Lori Freni described the alleged attackers as wearing "nothing descriptive, saying their clothing ranged from "jeans to boots to vests." She did not mention their race, hair color, height or other descriptive characteristics.
The Freni family has declined interview requests from PhillyVoice, saying they are speaking exclusively to Fox 29. The family told the station that they observed at least one person filming the incident.
A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $11,000 for the family.
In December, Fox 29 reported that a good Samaritan was paying for Austin Freni to return home for the holidays, because his family had hit hard times.
Freni grew up in Audubon, Camden County, and graduated from Hammonton High School. He was due to head back to Fort Benning, Georgia after the holidays. He reportedly was preparing for a Middle East deployment.