Hospital - Photo courtesy of Robert Linder on Unsplash

A Metro bus driver who was stabbed multiple times during an argument with a passenger in Woodland Hills was hospitalized in critical condition Thursday, while a search continued for the assailant in the attack that has again raised questions about safety on the transit system.

The driver and suspect got into an argument for unknown reasons and exited the bus around 5:15 p.m. Wednesday near Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Erwin Street, police said. As they continued the argument, the suspect stabbed the driver multiple times with a knife or a sharp object.

The driver was taken to Dignity Health Northridge Hospital Medical Center, where he underwent surgery, police said.

The suspect was described as a 6-foot-tall man, approximately 21 years old, with blonde curly hair. He was wearing a red shirt, black pants and carrying a black backpack .

A video camera on the bus captured images of the suspect, and police circulated the photos in hopes of locating the man, who was last seen eastbound on Owensmouth Avenue.

Metro Board of Directors Chairman Ara Najarian, a Glendale City Council member, announced at the start of Thursday’s board meeting that the agency will be offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect in the stabbing.

“Words fail to capture the depth of our sorrow and our concern for our injured employee,” Najarian said. “I know this board stands together, united in our prayers and hopes for the operator’s swift and complete recovery. … This heart-wrenching incident reminds us of the risks our front-line employees face each day as they strive to serve our community in the face of such adversity. It is crucial that we stand strong, resolute and unwavering in our commitment to one another.”

Najarian noted that even after being stabbed and enduring “life-threatening” injuries, the driver managed to return to the bus after the attack and secure the vehicle to ensure passengers were safe.

Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins said the driver remained in critical condition Thursday morning, but his family reported that he tried to open his eyes, which doctors saw as a good sign. She said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and City Council members Paul Krekorian and Bob Blumenfield — all Metro board members — visited the hospital Wednesday night to comfort the driver’s family.

Anyone with information on the suspect’s location was asked to call 877-LAPD-24-7.

“The driver is still not out of the (woods), and we need to keep him in our prayers,” Bass said at the Metro board meeting.

She added, “We know that ridership is down on the trains and the buses and we certainly don’t want public safety to be the reason. But we definitely need to redouble our efforts in that regard.”

The attack was the latest violent encounter involving the Metro transit system, which has come under fire from some critics and elected officials over safety issues.

Earlier this week, county Supervisor and Metro board member Janice Hahn called for “a full accounting” of security protocols on the system following a recent attack on a woman on a Metro A (Blue) Line train in Long Beach by two suspects.

“We have multi-million-dollar law enforcement contracts, Metro security, and 300 Metro Ambassadors who have been hired to ride our buses and trains,” Hahn said in a statement Monday. “But where were they when this woman was beaten up on the Blue Line last week? With this many layers of security, why didn’t anyone come to this woman’s aid? This is far from the first time there has been an attack on our trains in recent months. I will be asking for a full accounting of where our transit ambassadors, Metro security, and Long Beach Police officers assigned to Metro were at the time of this attack.

“Enough is enough,” Hahn said. “Our trains need to be safe for our residents.”

Long Beach police said the attack on the A Line train occurred shortly after 5:30 p.m. May 17. Although the victim told ABC7 one of her attackers used racial slurs, police said they had “no information to indicate this is a hate or bias motivated incident.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *