Man, 14-year-old accused of stabbing, punching bus driver - WNEM TV 5

Man, 14-year-old accused of stabbing, punching bus driver

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A 20-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy are in custody in connection with the brutal attack of a Kansas City Area Transportation Authority bus driver.

Lewis W. Perkins, 20, of Kansas City, was charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action.

A 14-year-old teen was also charged Friday with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. These charges were filed in juvenile court.

Perkins' mother recognized him from surveillance video aired by local news outlets and forced the two to turn themselves in Thursday night, according to court documents. Because the teen is a juvenile, authorities are not saying whether Perkins and the 14-year-old are related.

The bus driver, who was stabbed and punched by two men, is at home recovering from his injuries.

The two allegedly attacked the bus driver when he demanded they pay their fare, but they said they didn't have the money.

This is the third time in 2013 that ATA bus drivers have been the target of violence.The latest happened over the weekend on a city bus as some passengers sat by and watched.

Some, who have seen the disturbing video showing the blows, are questioning why the three other passengers on board didn't step in to help the driver.

The video shows two male passengers attacking the driver multiple times about 9:15 p.m. Saturday near the area of 31st Street and Askew Avenue. One suspect has a knife. The driver is pushed to the ground, punched and stabbed multiple times as three other passengers watch it all unfold.

"Our job is extremely dangerous, such as police or the fire department, but we don't have protective equipment," said J.P. Walker, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, or ATU.

Walker drove buses for 37 years before becoming president of the union representing drivers.

He said he was appalled by the video. Walker said the driver, whose name isn't being revealed, is a reverend and is known for being good-hearted.

"He's a person who would never attack anyone. He's a defender," Walker said.

Just before the assault, the 52-year-old driver had tried to get the suspects off the bus for cursing and refusing to pay.

KCTV5 viewers are sounding off about the video. Some were upset that the three other passengers on board did not step in, one holds up his hands and the other is seen taking pictures with a cell phone.

"The sad part isn't the crime of assault, it's the crime of no passion, for those folks to just sit there. Thank God the driver is alive. Wake up, wake up, wake up. Am I my brother's keeper?" wrote Wayne P.

"Two against one, really? And you are just going to sit there, and watch him get attacked and not even try to help," Melissa H. wrote.

But Walker doesn't believe it's fair to place judgment on the passengers. He said drivers don't want passengers to risk their own safety.

"Our passengers don't know if the assailants have guns, weaponry or whatever. We don't expect them to put themselves in harm's way," he said.

Police said the passengers did do their part to help the investigation. One passenger gave police cell phone photos they took, and they clearly show the suspects' faces.

Also during the attack, the woman on board picked up the driver's cell phone off the ground and called 911 for help.

Bus drivers have a pretty dangerous job, because they have no idea who is boarding their bus, and what state of mind they may be in. Right now buses are equipped with cameras, as well as a secret panic button drivers can push, to alert authorities when there's an emergency.

In October, a driver was knocked out by a powerful punch near the 39th Street and Indiana Avenue bus stop. A month later another driver was pounded in the face by an angry rider at a stop at 39th and Main streets. But the most recent attack showed an escalation in violence.

"It's the first time I've ever seen when a weapon was used on a driver with intent to do harm to the driver," said B.J. Garcia, KCATA manager of safety and instruction.

"Three attacks, while not a big number, three is too many. I'm not sure what the cause is or what the temperament of the public is that's causing that," Garcia said.

Garcia said drivers are taught to push the panic button when there's an emergency, but he said that's not always possible.

"We do teach them (to have) no physical contact with the passengers unless they feel threatened or feel passengers feel threatened," he said. "Safety is our No. 1 priority, not only for passengers, but for our employees."

The manager of safety for the bus company said five years ago they tested out plexy glass to protect the drivers, much like what is already being used in New York City and New Jersey.

"In one it can be your protector and in another it can be your coffin, depending on what attack item is used," Walker said.

Walker said, in some cases, the plexy glass could be a hindrance to drivers, such as in a case two weeks ago near Truman Road near Prospect Avenue, when an angry passenger poured gasoline on passengers and attempted to start a fire.

"Plexy glass may defend, but it also may pin… because we just had an attack last week with gasoline, and if you are pinned in with safety glass, you could be subject to your own demise. So it has its good and it has its bad," Walker said.

When it was first tested in Kansas City five years ago, the drivers didn't want it because they felt confined. Now, transportation officials may revisit the safety tool.

Bond has yet to be set for Perkins. Prosecutors are seeking a $100,000 bond.

KCTV5's Sandra Olivas contributed to this report.

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