DENVER — A video released this week by the Regional Transportation District shows a violent stabbing that happened on one of its buses.
The incident happened just before 8 p.m. on June 30 on Route 15L, which was driving along East Colfax Avenue near North Ogden Street.
The video shows a man wearing an orange or pink sweatshirt, a grey hat and sunglasses sitting on the left side of the bus talking on the phone.
He then pulls out a large knife, stands up while still talking on the phone and confronts another passenger who is out of frame.
The two men then stumble back into the video toward the back of the bus, where the man in the orange or pink sweatshirt is seen stabbing the victim three more times, twice in the back and once in the neck.
The bus the stops, the doors open and a bystander intervenes. The two men exit the bus and the suspect leaves.
The victim is a 22-year-old man with autism and mental disorders. He was stabbed several times and is recovering.
“It's just really horrific to see something escalate in that fashion for no rhyme or reason,” said Ron Short, the vice president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1001.
He’s been a bus operator for 23 years and says, when he started, incidents of violence were practically unheard of. Since then, though, things have gotten more aggressive, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
He’s heard from his fellow union members about the uptick in violence toward both drivers and other passengers and he says many are worried.
“We're just facing a whole totally new dynamic. Bus operators are afraid. I mean, at the end of the day, we drive the bus to serve our community. We like to drive the bus. But now we're forced to be being psychiatrists, security guards,” Short said.
He says the route where this stabbing happened is known to be problematic but the violent incidents are occurring just about everywhere.
Short himself has even been spit on operating a bus late at night. He worries that as the violence becomes more prevalent, it’s also becoming more normalized.
“Now, we have operators that are more or less involved in situations, some of them don't even report it because the mindset is, well, that just happens,” Short said. “I don't ever want to come to work, feeling that it's acceptable, or that's part of the job or getting assaulted or spit on, or things of that nature.”
The union has formed an assault on operators committee that can assist the employees after a violent incident and even go to court with them.
The committee pushes the courts to allow the operators to testify about their experience as a way of encouraging judges to stiffen penalties so that the perpetrators are held accountable for their action. Before, Short says the punishment was more or less a slap on the wrist and a fine.
“We had previous incidents where operators were assaulted and then they saw the individual, the individual that assaulted them, hours later, trying to ride their bus,” he said.
RTD has started to increase security but Short says, like many businesses, they too are having a hard time with hiring.
He doesn’t solely blame RTD though, and says communities and local law enforcement need to do more to help stop this violence.
“It's a daunting task; you're more or less playing catch up at this point. So, it's kind of a jumping in front of the bull holding the horns and dig it in and try to stop it,” he said.
Denver7 asked RTD for an interview but was sent a statement saying its internal police force is supported by dispatchers, video surveillance, contracted security personnel and police departments.
“The RTD Transit Police Division has recently realigned its security personnel into impact teams dedicated to specific transit modes, such as bus or rail, or to specific outreach functions. Following a data-driven approach based on crime analysis allows for security personnel to be deployed in the areas of greatest need,” the statement read.
The suspect has not yet been arrested and Denver police still considers this an active investigation. Anyone with information on the suspect or incident is asked to call Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867.
Crime Stoppers is offering a $2,000 reward for help in solving this crime.
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