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Dori defends Metro driver charged with assaulting spitting passenger

Taken from Monday’s edition of The Dori Monson Show.

(Warning: The following video contains profanity)

People perceive me as always attacking public employees. We talk about teachers all the time who commit horrible crimes and they can never be fired, and I’m outraged by that – you know a teacher puts a camera so he can get up-skirt photos of a ninth grade girl, and he’s not fired. Now, we have a story of a public employee that I was all set to defend, and this is the one who gets fired.

This case happened at the Renton Transit Center and was captured on video. What you will see is a 23-year-old passenger who is passed out on the bus, and I don’t know if he’s drunk or on drugs or something else, but a 23-year-old is passed out on the bus and 61-year-old Dennis Echols, he’s trying to get this passenger off the bus.

“You’ve got to get off the bus,” Echols is heard saying repeatedly in the video.

The passenger is just out, and the driver keeps telling him he has to get off the bus. The driver is just trying everything he can to get the guy off the bus.

At one point, he does kind of kick the passenger’s backpack off the bus. Then the passenger who looks like he’s on something – he’s passed out that deep on the bus, I think that’s a reasonable assumption – he tells the driver that he should kill himself.

Finally, the driver gets the guy to get up, and as the guy is walking off the bus, the passenger spits right into the driver’s face.

Right after the driver gets spit on, you see another camera view of the driver basically just beating the passenger on a bench outside of the bus.

So a guy is passed out, looks like he’s on something, he spits on the drivers face, and the driver reacts I think the way most of us would. He’s furious at him and he beats him down. It’s a 61-year-old driver beating down a healthy looking 23-year-old guy.

Good for the driver, I say. So I’m all set to defend the driver, and I find out Metro has fired the driver. Metro apparently has a different take than I do, so we called up to Kevin Desmond, the General Manager of King County Metro.

“Of course I’ve reviewed the video and reviewed a lot of the facts associated with the case,” says Desmond. “What he [the driver] did is deplorable. There’s really no excuse for what he has done.”

I had a different opinion when I watched the video. I understood why the driver did what he did.

But Desmond says drivers often encounter people on the bus who can’t or don’t get off, and they have specific procedures they are supposed to follow.

“They have the ability to call in and get assistance to help someone get off the bus, whether from a service supervisor or a police officer. Our operator certainly had that available to him. He didn’t use that particular option,” says Desmond. “Our operators are taught to be peacemakers and not to get involved in confrontation for a variety of reasons. It protects their safety as well.
God forbid there might have been a weapon involved in this altercation. Someone could have been hurt very, very badly in that instance for example.”

Before the physical altercation occurred, Desmond points out the driver used profanity, and he believes he did things to make the situation worse.

If he had not done the profanity, some of the other things, would he have been within his rights to physically defend himself after getting spit on?

“I will say this,” says Desmond. “Our operators are taught self defense, they have within their rights to defend themselves.”

“In this case, he was spat upon,” says Desmond. “It’s hard for me to reconcile being spat upon and doing what this operator – and everyone has seen in the video – what he has done.”

King County Metro takes assaults on bus drivers very seriously, says Desmond.

“Unfortunately we do have operators getting assaulted from time to time, whether it’s being spat upon or physical contact, and we deplore that,” says Desmond. “Our police go after the individuals who perpetrate such crimes against our operators as aggressively as we can, and we catch a lot of them.”

In this case, Desmond says the operator and the suspect are facing assault charges. The driver was also fired, but Desmond says he’s appealing.

“As is his right under his union contract he can grieve and in fact appeal the decision of the organization,” says Desmond. “He has filed those papers, so we’ll go through that process at this time.”

We’ll watch it with interest.

Taken from Monday’s edition of The Dori Monson Show.

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