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How far can HRT drivers go to protect themselves?

Posted at 6:50 PM, May 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-22 18:50:37-04

Norfolk, Va. - A video showing a violent encounter between a bus driver and a passenger has HRT drivers fired up!

Current and former HRT drivers who contacted NewsChannel 3 support former operator Kathy Brown, who says you can get fired for fighting back.

Kathy took out an emergency protective order against Simyua Askew in August of 2012, who Kathy says spit on her while on the job. An eyewitness filled out a courtesy card supporting that the attack took place.

Court documents reveal Askew has a criminal record that includes assault charges, probation violations and jail time.

“Once I reported I was spit on, with documentation of a petition saying I should be protected, I was never protected,” Says Brown.

Askew says the spitting incident was an accident and admits she and her friend Latoya Sharpe were combative when they returned to Kathy's bus a few days later.

“Those were the young ladies trying to get on my bus that had spit on me,” says Brown. “And I told the young lady who got on the bus she can't ride with me. I don't feel comfortable. I don't feel safe.”

Words were exchanged.

“She went to say, ‘B**** she is not riding with you I am, and I'm going to talk to you and I’m going to punch you in the face because you can't do nothing,’” explained Brown.

It escalated and Kathy struck first. She was then fired.

But since Kathy had a protection order against Simyua Askew, she doesn't understand why the company didn't do more to keep the passenger away from her, and she claims the system on the bus to call for help doesn't work fast enough.

“What happens, nothing because by the time they get there, you might need an ambulance,” says Askew.

Months after the 2012 incident, Latoya Sharpe was convicted and spent 5 days in jail for the assault.

HRT says it does have a policy to ban hostile or dangerous passengers but admits it's difficult to enforce it on multiple routes.

This leaves the driver’s union asking the question still, How far can you go to protect yourself from hostile passengers?”

Union rep Amanda Malone, says HRT still hasn't given her members a clear cut answer.

“Once they defend themselves a lot of times, they end up terminated,” says Malone.

The HRT Operators Union tells me there is one driver fighting to keep his job right now who they say did not initiate contact with a hostile passenger!

The union says the operator was holding the passenger to prevent personal harm, and he is still at risk of losing his job.

Related: 

Bus driver beatdown investigation prompts action from HRT CEO, Virginia Secretary of Transportation

HRT bus driver danger: What would you do?