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Another Metro Transit Bus Driver Attacked In Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Just two days after an arrest in the brutal attack of a Metro Transit bus driver, there's been another one.

Investigators are looking for two men who were video-taped punching and kicking a driver at Seventh and Nicollet in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday afternoon.

It's unclear what led to the fight, but Metro Transit says other cameras aboard the route 18A  bus will be used to help identify those involved.

The fight happened in broad daylight and in clear view of Nicollet Mall pedestrians. One person captured the attack on a cell phone and posted the video to social media. It clearly shows the driver outside the bus being hit, kicked and thrown to the ground.

The attack happened at a MTC stop at South Seventh Street and Nicollet Mall.

"It pains me to see this happen," says Metro Transit's chief deputy of bus operations, Brian Funk.

Funk can't say exactly what provoked the altercation which comes just two days after an arrest in another driver assault.

That incident happened on April 10 aboard a route 5 bus.

Just like in that case, multiple on board cameras will be examined to help identify those involved.

On Tuesday, authorities announced the arrest of 26-year-old Sterling Smith in the earlier assault.

"All of our vehicles have multiple camera systems, so we are doing that. Everybody who steps on board, whatever's happening on board is on camera," Funk said.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 represents 2,400 transit workers, including hundreds of drivers. Union President Ryan Timlin says this latest incident only reinforces the claim that driver attacks are on the rise.

"This needs to end," says Timlin.

He adds that much more needs to be done to better protect drivers, who've been involved in at least seven or eight more assaults than last year.

"There is an uptick and while we don't know the cause of it right now, this is proving it with what happened yesterday," Timlin said.

Metro Transit says de-escalation training for drivers is one important strategy to help prevent such attacks. Another could be physical barriers that separate the driver from passenger.

Metro Transit and the union are now evaluating 20 buses fitted with the heavy duty clear enclosures.

Demonstrating one such bus, Brian Funk adds, "So it latches shut so that the operator is the only one able to get in and out."

Clearly, the barriers can prevent all attacks. But they can be an important first step in making a dangerous job a little safer.

Anyone with information about the latest driver assault should contact Metro Transit police at 612-349-7200.

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