Kimberly (kimberly_a) wrote,

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People Getting Punched on the Bus

Was on the bus this morning, on my way to Lisa's house, when a violent assault took place as we were passing through downtown Berkeley. A (possibly homeless) 40-ish black man became enraged over basically nothing & forcefully punched an older blind white man in the head. Granted, the blind man was being a bit of a dick (flipping the other guy off for refusing to pay the bus fare), but that doesn't excuse a punch to the head!

There were about 20 passengers on the bus at the time. I was sitting just across the aisle from Violent Guy, so I had a front-row seat. Lucky me.

I'd become nervous when Violent Guy had started shouting about not letting anyone disrespect him (referring to the Blind Guy's insistent middle finger display), then even more nervous when Violent Guy had stood up and started looming over Blind Guy, but I became truly frightened when Violent Guy hauled off and slugged Blind Guy in the side of the head. Other passengers started shouting. Sobbing, I cried out, "Driver! This guy just hit someone! Make him get off the bus!"

Violent Guy turned to look at me and asked me if I was going to disrespect him, too. I didn't say anything, still crying and crying. He stared fixedly into my face, his eyes cold and angry, and it seemed like it went on forever in total silence and stillness. He started moving across the aisle toward me, but Blind Guy had taken this opportunity to hurriedly exit the bus (since the driver had pulled over when the commotion erupted), and it distracted Violent Guy. He proclaimed loudly to the bus at large, "When you see that blind guy again, don't be surprised if he's dead." Then he said, "I'm gonna go break that guy's finger."

Violent Guy went to get off the bus, but the driver approached him at the doorway and tried to calm him down, suggesting that he shouldn't run off to hurt anybody, etc. Violent Guy started looming over the bus driver and was very clearly seconds from punching him, so the driver wisely stepped aside. Violent Guy was out the door like a shot—dropping all of his crap on the sidewalk (he'd been carrying a raincoat, a sleeping bag, various bags, etc.)—and strode meaningfully off after Blind Guy, who was only a few yards away by this time (since he is entirely blind & it's difficult to run away when you're relying on a white cane to guide your passage).

At this point, the bus driver closed all the bus doors (ensuring that Violent Guy could not get back on) and was on the phone with dispatch and/or police. I think he'd been on the phone with them earlier than this, but at this point he turned all his attention in that direction. At this point, probably only a minute or so had passed since the punch was thrown.

Violent Guy caught up with Blind Guy almost immediately, right outside the bus windows, and he hit him from behind with a powerful running kick. Blind Guy stumbled but continued walking as quickly as possible, while the bus driver opened the front door of the bus and stepped out to shout at Violent Guy to leave Blind Guy alone. Everybody on the bus was standing up and watching out the windows. One woman was shouting to the driver to open the back door so she could go out to help Blind Guy.

Hearing Bus Driver's shouts, Violent Guy turned around and came back toward the bus, then seemed to think better of it (maybe the bus driver stepped back inside and closed the doors?) & turned back in the direction Blind Guy had gone. The bus driver stepped back into the bus and closed the doors again.

Violent Guy took off. An older woman on the bus got up and came and hugged me for what felt like a really long time, telling me that everything was going to be okay. I just kept sobbing and sobbing and sobbing. I heard the bus driver saying over his radio that Violent Guy was gone, but the people in the back of the bus yelled that he was still running after Blind Guy. I ran to the back of the bus and looked out and was horrified to see the Blind Guy standing at the corner, waiting for the light to change, while Violent Guy rapidly approached him from behind.

Violent Guy was only maybe 8' away from Blind Guy (and this was almost an entire block away, so we couldn't hear if Violent Guy was yelling or if Blind Guy was totally oblivious to the impending second assault), but then another guy on the street stepped up and started talking to Violent Guy. I have no idea what they were saying, but Violent Guy stopped, and Brave Random Passerby talked with him, gesturing a lot, though he seemed pretty calm. Whatever Brave Random Passerby said seemed to convince Violent Guy to leave Blind Guy alone, and Violent Guy came back to the bus. He stood at the closed front door of the bus and glared, still clearly incensed, through the glass at the bus driver. It seemed pretty obvious that he wasn't just making a polite request to be allowed back on the bus to proceed to his intended destination but was still hoping to get a few more licks in. The bus driver kept the doors closed and kept talking on his radio.

Eventually, Violent Guy went and picked up all of his crap off the sidewalk and strode away in the opposite direction of where Blind Guy had gone.

A guy in a wheelchair had been screaming and shouting, demanding that the driver let him off the bus, through much of this time. The bus driver tried to calm him down, explaining that he had to follow procedures and that the police would be coming. By regulation, a bus after this sort of event has to go out of service and the driver has to wait for statements to be taken and such.

In the end, most people got off the bus, bitching and moaning about having to wait for the next #18 to come along, but Older Hugging Lady and I both talked with the driver and asked if it would help if we stayed to serve as witnesses, since we were both sitting right next to the initial attack. Also, there was a blind woman sitting in the front of the bus (though she had not been traveling with Blind Guy) who offered to stay for a bit, but then had to leave. She praised the driver repeatedly for how he had handled the whole situation.

The bus driver was VERY shaken up. He was trembling & kept rambling about what had happened, how he was glad the guy hadn't hit him because he wouldn't have been able to keep himself from fighting back and probably would have lost his job. He kept talking about how he'd been only minutes away from his lunch break & had a burrito in his backpack. I suggested that he eat his lunch while we wait for the police, but he wryly admitted that he didn't think he'd be able to keep food down right then.

The bus driver and Hugging Lady both commented that they'd been worried that Violent Guy was going to hit me. They both agreed that if Bus Driver hadn't let Violent Guy off the bus when he did, Violent Guy would have hit Bus Driver & would almost certainly have come for me next. This did not particularly help me calm down, though I don't think I was crying anymore by this time. Well ... actually ... I think I still was.

Three police officers arrived pretty quickly, but one of them was a complete asshole. He complained about how people had given him conflicting descriptions of the guy, then said that he'd gone in the direction everyone pointed, but hadn't found the guy, despite the fact that there were very few people walking over that way. It was like he was accusing everyone of lying or something! And he laughed about it, looking around at everybody (most of the people who had gotten off the bus were still standing at the stop, waiting for the next bus to arrive) and mockingly describing the various things he said people had said. I'd heard what people had been telling him, and he clearly hadn't been listening well, because he totally misquoted everyone, saying that people said the guy was carrying a yellow umbrella, when I and everyone else I heard had said the guy was carrying a yellow raincoat.

Anyway, Asshole Cop eventually came up with some kind of electronic gizmo & was staring into it & it turned out to be video of what happened out on the sidewalk. Asshole Cop started scoffing again & saying stuff like, "You acted like he was beating this guy up all over the place! He only hit him once!" and "You didn't mention that the guy kept hitting himself the whole time, too." WTF? I was watching almost the entire time (except during the 20 seconds or so when Hugging Lady had been hugging me) & Violent Guy never hit himself. Bus Driver, Hugging Lady, and I all looked at each other when Asshole Cop said this and raised our eyebrows in disbelief. Violent Guy had not seemed crazy, just really really angry, so it would have been extremely out-of-character for him to hit himself in that situation, based on his other behavior. I'm EXTREMELY dubious of Asshole Cop's assertion. And even if Violent Guy had been hitting himself, it wouldn't have excused his attacking other people! And it wouldn't excuse Asshole Cop's minimizing the whole thing!

Then Asshole Cop started accusing Bus Driver of giving statements about things he hadn't actually seen himself but had only heard the passengers shouting about. Probably a fair assertion, but it shouldn't have been expressed so accusingly and dismissively.

Dude. Asshole Cop is an asshole.

Eventually, I saw Lisa approaching (I had phoned her on my Emergency Phone to tell her I would be late, and then again to ask her to come get me when I knew that the bus was going out of service & the bus driver had asked us to stay to give statements to the police) & I asked if Hugging Lady and I could leave, and the cops and AC Transit people said that we could. We got off the bus and hugged again and then Lisa and I went to brunch at La Note, my favorite brunch place.

Then I came home and fell into a totally exhausted, drained, traumatized sleep for a couple hours until Shannon got home.

It all obviously triggered Ernie stuff for me, what with me sitting helplessly nearby while a vulnerable other person else was physically assaulted, then having the violent person turn his attentions toward threatening me when I raised my voice to ask the bus driver for help/protection. I'm still really shaken.
Tags: berkeley, buses, childhood, comfort, crying, ernie, fear, people who rock, people who suck, police, protection, ptsd, public transit, trauma, violence

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