Friday, November 09, 2007

Metro Releases Video of Wild Ride Recorded on MDVR system

Video footage of a man clinging to the outside of a moving Metro Transit bus was released Thursday, more than three months after the bizarre incident that led to the bus driver being fired.

Metro released the three security video clips of the July 29 incident in response to a state open records request by the Wisconsin State Journal and several other media outlets. A Dane County Circuit Court judge ruled last month that the videos and driver Kris Burke's personnel records were public records.


One video shows Madison resident Michael Cooper clinging to the side-view mirror for 73 seconds while the bus accelerated up to 34 miles per hour on Britta Parkway near the Beltline and Verona Road.

Burke, who has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge in connection with the incident, is seen shouting at Cooper to get off the bus.

The other videos show Cooper riding on the bus earlier that day then getting off at the Walgreen Drug Store on Verona Road. After Cooper exits the bus, a passenger tells Burke that Cooper had urinated in the back, which prompted Burke to bar Cooper from entering the bus 20 minutes later.

In an interview with the State Journal at the time, Cooper denied urinating on the bus. But when questioned by police, he admitted he had done so, saying he couldn't hold it any longer.

Burke filed a lawsuit Aug. 20 against Metro to block the release of the videos and his personnel records. Metro hadn't released the videos before then, citing an ongoing internal investigation. That investigation led to Burke's ouster on Aug. 23.

On Oct. 26, Judge Richard Niess ruled against Burke and ordered Metro to release the records pending an appeal. The 20-day window for that appeal ended Tuesday.

Assistant City Attorney Roger Allen, who argued on behalf of Metro for releasing the records, said the decision to release a bus video or any other public record depends on the situation. The city normally wouldn't release information involving juveniles or a criminal investigation, he said.

But in this case, Allen contacted District Attorney Brian Blanchard, who said releasing the video wouldn't interfere with the criminal case because it is an accurate representation of what happened.

"It was conduct that occurred in a public location." Allen said. "The public had a right to know that we responded appropriately to the conduct of our employee."

Burke has pleaded not guilty to second-degree recklessly endangering safety. Burke's attorney Joseph Sommers said his client didn't commit a crime and would be vindicated.

"He didn't put the man in danger, the man endangered himself," Sommers said.