Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bus Driver Fired for Choking Passenger

TriMet has fired a bus driver accused of choking a passenger during an argument aboard a Southeast Powell Boulevard line in Portland last month. Operator Brian Christeson, 53, was in his TriMet uniform but off duty when he allegedly got into an argument and scuffled with 57-year-old Ludwig Lipscomb on Dec. 30. Since the altercation, Christeson, who was hired in November 1994, has been on paid administrative leave.TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch said the decision to terminate the operator came after an internal TriMet review, which included reviewing a video tape of the altercation and interviewing Christeson, Lipscomb and others on the bus. Christeson still faces criminal charges of misdemeanor strangulation and interfering with public transportation. A court hearing is set for Feb. 3."We terminated because we saw a threat to public safety," Fetsch said. "Also, when you're in uniform, you represent the agency at all hours."Fetsch said she did not know if the argument between the two men stemmed from racist comments, which KGW TV reported were made by Christeson. She said he was fired because of "the altercation." The Multnomah County District Attorney's office decided to file the charges after reviewing video of the altercation from an on-board camera. In 2009, the Legislature amended the Oregon Revised Statutes to include strangulation as a crime, primarily to deal with domestic violence cases. According to the ORS, "a person commits the crime of strangulation if the person knowingly impedes the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of another person" by, among other things, applying pressure on the throat or neck of the other person.TriMet placed the operator on leave the day of the reported incident.TriMet has declined a request for a copy of the video of the incident, saying it is evidence in a criminal case. Police and the District Attorney's Office declined a request for a copies of the video and the police report, saying they did not want to jeopardize the case before it goes ot court.