Sunday, February 22, 2009

School Bus Fight Caught on Video Camera


A teacher arrested for assaulting a student said he did it because he felt threatened.

Joseph Hamilton was charged with assault and battery. An affidavit states Hamilton hit a student in the face and body, causing injury.

Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said Hamilton crossed the line, but said he sympathized with Hamilton.

"It is very much disappointing to watch the entire video. It's obvious that the kids don't have any respect for grown-ups," Cannon said.

Exclusively obtained surveillance video from inside the bus showed the scuffle that landed 28 year-old Hamilton in jail.

The video, which is almost two-hours long, showed the entire bus ride for the R.D. Schroder Middle School students who were leaving their after-school program, 21st Century.

On a phone interview, Hamilton said he was riding the bus at the request of the bus driver, who told him she needed help disciplining the students.

The kids are unruly and have no respect for anyone; They curse, call each other names and start fights, Hamilton said.

Half-way through the video, a brawl broke out where Hamilton is seen trying to control one of the students.

Hamilton said the boys first ganged up on him, then one of them punched him in his face and that's when he said he had no choice but to tackle the student to the seat.

Hamilton said he felt threatened and started fighting for his safety.

Cannon was blown away by what he saw. He said it's a sad statement on the state of the schools and a bad reflection on these kids' parents.

"If I were the parents of some of those kids on that bus, I'd be terribly upset with the lack of respect that they showed the teacher and the bus driver," Cannon said.

Hamilton is a recreational instructor at the after school program and is also a part time physical education teacher at other Hollywood schools.

The Charleston County School District suspended Hamilton without pay. Live 5 News learned the bus driver was also disciplined.

The identities of the students involved were not released because they are minors. Both are said to be 14 years-old and both were charged.

The one directly involved in the fight was charged with assault and battery, interfering with the operation of a school bus and threatening the life of a public official.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Youtube Video of Incident on CTA Bus Spurs Investigation


Officer shown struggling with CTA bus passenger who refused to leave.
By David Heinzmann and Jeremy Gorner

According to the clock on the video, the police officer spent 42 seconds ordering the man off the bus without success. Then he laid hands on him.

The man, who CTA officials said boarded the bus without paying the fare, argued with the officer and refused to leave. Eventually the cop grabbed him by the coat, called for backup, then struggled with him and cursed him until two more officers showed up and hustled him away.

"The individual had not paid the fare, and the bus driver asked that he pay it. He refused," said Sheila Gregory, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Transit Authority. The driver, Gregory said, notified a supervisor, who contacted Chicago police.

It was the sort of altercation that probably happens often. But this time, an activist was sitting in the rear of the bus with a cell phone camera. Spencer Thayer, 29, who runs a "police accountability" Web site, recorded the incident. Soon it was on YouTube, and the Chicago Police Department and the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates allegations of officer misconduct, had opened investigations into the incident. Thayer said he recorded the incident on Friday.

The video prompted debate among viewers about whether the cop stepped over the line.

In the video, the officer boards the bus, is directed to the man by the driver and then taps him on the shoulder and says: "You, let's go. Get off the bus." After the man refused to leave, the officer tried again, saying: "We'll have a little talk. Maybe you can catch the next one."

Still the man refused to leave, slurring his words a bit as he insisted he had paid his fare. Thirty seconds into the encounter, the officer threatened to take him to jail if he didn't move. Then he grabbed him, shook him and shoved him into the window.

The officer's body was partly blocking the view from Thayer's camera, but the cop started to repeat, "You want to fight me?" as they struggled. "Get off this [expletive] bus right now!" he shouted as he knocked the man against the window again.

A little more than a minute into the incident, he called for backup. Seconds later, more officers arrived and dragged the man off the bus.

Thayer said he believed the officer should not have touched the man before backup arrived. But he was reluctant to assign blame either way. His Web site,, is part of a network aimed at increasing vigilance on police issues.

"It's a nationwide thing with a single-minded goal of raising awareness of police accountability," he said.

Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune