Breaking News

Two in custody in bus driver attack

Updated: 2013-07-19T03:44:43Z

By CHRISTINE VENDEL and MATT CAMPBELL

The Kansas City Star

Two people were in custody Thursday night in connection with a brutal attack Saturday on a bus driver for the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.

Kansas City police said a man turned himself in to the Metro Patrol station about 6:30 p.m. Thursday. A juvenile, about whom police had received numerous tips, was also in custody.

No charges had been filed.

A videotape released Thursday by the ATA showed two men beating and stabbing a bus driver while three riders sat or stood nearby, doing nothing to stop the attack.

The bystanders may not have interrupted the fight Saturday night, but they helped tremendously in other ways, investigators said.

A woman picked up the driver’s cellphone as it tumbled to the floor during the fracas and called 911. Another rider trained his cellphone’s camera on the attackers, capturing vivid images of the assailants that will likely lead to their arrests, police said.

The attack occurred about 9:15 p.m. Saturday after two men boarded the bus near 31st Street and Askew Avenue and didn’t pay their fares. They argued with the 52-year-old driver and cursed him for being late, Kansas City Police Detective Jeff Littlejohn said.

Someone on the bus offered to pay the fares to smooth over the dispute. The men prepared to sit down, but continued to curse and harass the driver.

The driver then pulled over and told the men to get off the bus.

They refused and attacked the driver when he tried to escort them off. One of the men, in a blue T-shirt, tried to stab the driver three times. The driver was stabbed once in the abdomen and once in the back.

He spent about 24 hours in a hospital and is now recovering at home, police said. He has worked as a driver for seven years.

The ATA employes 450 operators who drive their fleet of about 300 buses, said ATA spokeswoman Cindy Baker.

The attack was the third serious assault against an ATA bus driver since October, when a 54-year-old driver was knocked unconscious by a sucker punch. The videotape of the assault went viral and helped Littlejohn identify an 18-year-old suspect, who was charged with a felony.

The next month a rider punched a 59-year-old driver in the face after the driver refused to give him a transfer ticket worth $1. Littlejohn also investigated that case. A 54-year-old man was arrested and charged with assault.

Despite the recent assaults, violence against drivers is still rare, Baker said, considering they transport 50,000 riders every day.

Baker said the ATA is reviewing options to keep drivers safe, including revisiting an idea to have drivers sit behind a plastic shield. They experimented with the shields several years ago in a pilot project, Baker said, but drivers felt trapped and disconnected from their customers, so the ATA did not pursue the idea at that time.

Anyone with information on the attackers should call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).


To reach Christine Vendel, call 816-234-4438 or send email to cvendel@kcstar.com.

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