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Altercation with passenger gets bus driver terminated

A Washington Metro Transit bus driver was involved in an altercation with a passenger that ultimately resulted in his termination on Dec. 4. After the passenger allegedly spat on him, the driver explained to police that he simply "lost it."

As the bus arrived in a transit center, the driver attempted to awaken a sleeping passenger. The passenger then spat in the driver's face as he exited the bus. A surveillance camera captured video of the driver striking the passenger in the head with a rubber wheel block that weighed approximately 8 pounds. The driver then proceeded to punch the passenger seven times before throwing the passenger to the ground and kicking him in the midsection. Both the driver and the passenger were subsequently charged with misdemeanor fourth-degree assault. Prior to the incident, the driver had not been involved in any other type of altercation while on the job.

A representative for Metro Transit said that it was not unusual to have to awaken sleeping passengers after buses arrive at transit centers. However, the representative asserted that drivers are trained to contact supervisors if there is a problem in such situations. Metro Transit states that it only supports a driver resisting a direct physical attack where there is good cause to believe that personal physical harm may result.

A criminal defense for the bus driver could include a review of a variety of mitigating circumstances. Also, a criminal defense attorney could examine whether being spat upon in the face constituted a direct physical attack under Metro Transit guidelines. A plea negotiation may also be possible because of the driver's relatively clean record prior to the altercation.

Source: The Seattle Times, "Metro bus driver fired after assault on passenger", Christine Clarridge and Bob Young, December 13, 2013

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