NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Police are looking for a suspect who allegedly assaulted a city bus driver Thursday morning in the Bronx after being refused a transfer because he didn’t pay the fare.
MTA bus driver Nelson Diaz, 54, said he was beaten up, spit on and had his head pushed into his bus window by the suspect, who fled the scene and is still at large.
“The only thing I told him was the fare is $2.25 — that’s all I said,” Diaz told CBS 2′s Derricke Dennis. “When he hit me, I pushed him away and that’s when he lunged at me, grabbed me by my throat and he pushed me and pinned me against the window.”
The suspect boarded the Bx 41 bus through the rear door at Melrose Avenue and East 162nd Street around 8:15 a.m., officials said.
When the suspect went to get off the bus, he demanded a transfer from Diaz, who refused because the suspect did not pay his fare, officials said.
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“All the operator stated was that you didn’t pay the fare. As soon as he stated that, that’s when the havoc struck,” said Frank Austin, chairman of the Transport Workers Union’s Bus Operator Action Committee.
Diaz suffered a concussion and was treated at St. Barnabas Hospital, TWU officials said. Diaz has been on the job for 24 years.
Diaz spoke out exclusively to CBS 2′s Dennis from his bed at his home in Rosedale, Queens, on Thursday night. He was bandaged and was still wearing his hospital tags while nursing a concussion.
“My back is in a lot of pain, where he hit me over here. I still keep getting ringing and I get headaches,” Diaz said.
Diaz’s wife said it could have been worse.
“I’m thankful that he’s OK. He didn’t get stabbed or shot, because everybody likes to carry pieces. I’m just glad that he’s safe,” Debbie Diaz said.
The union said the Bx 41 is one of the most dangerous bus lines in the system.
“It seems that most of these assaults are occurring through fare evasions,” Austin said. “Just the bus operators doing their job and letting the person know they didn’t pay their fare has become a means of assault.”
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said its policy is for drivers to remind fare beaters of the fare, but not to confront them. By all accounts, Diaz did not confront the passenger, but he did have a message for his attacker.
“I feel sorry for him, I hope he has a conscious, and he realizes what he did,” Diaz said.
Diaz said he will go back to work eventually, but will do so with an eye toward retirement in another two years.
A $2,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the suspect.
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