Brutal attack – Video shows assault on NJ Transit bus driver
A disturbing video has surfaced on social media showing a New Jersey Transit bus driver being brutally stomped by a group of teens prior to him drawing a gun and firing at them.
The driver, 48-year-old Charles Fieros, is seen on the ground outside his bus as he is kicked repeatedly. A woman's voice can be heard begging the attackers to stop.
What the 9-second video does not show, however, is what may have led up to the attack.
Fieros severely wounded one of his attackers, a 15-year-old boy, who was shot three times.
It is believed six teens were involved in the attack. None have been charged, but the investigation is ongoing.
The driver, however, is facing multiple charges, including attempted murder.
Police say they discovered the 9mm Glock handgun Fieros used to defend himself was illegal. It was reported stolen in Virginia. They say Fieros also was in possession with high-capacity magazines that are also illegal in New Jersey.
Even though the gun was deemed illegal, there has been some backlash over the charges against Fieros considering he was defending himself from attack. The videos being posted online include the hashtag "FreetheBusDriver."
The attack took place at Monticello & Jewett avenues on the city's West Side around 9:50 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17. The driver suffered head and face wounds according to Jersey City police spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione.
Attacks on transit workers becoming more common
The number of assaults on New Jersey Transit bus drivers and train crews have been rising sharply. Earlier this year, NJT reported the number of incidents had tripled.
President and CEO Kevin Corbett said it’s not uncommon to have disruptions when you're moving close to a million people a day on mass transit but the level of violence since the start of the pandemic has been nothing less than shocking.
In July, Fourteen NJ Transit workers sued the agency in federal court for not doing enough to prevent attacks and abuse from passengers.
The events detailed in the complaint happened during the pandemic, and some related to the passengers’ refusal to wear a mask as required at the time. More often, the incident stemmed from a passenger's attempt to ride the train without paying the fare.
Between January and September of 2021, NJ Transit reported 52 assaults on rail crew members and 82 assaults on bus drivers.
New law cracks down on transit attacks
Earlier this month, the NJ Transit Board of Directors unanimously approved what amounts to a "no ride list" for anyone convicted of attacking a crew member.
Similar to the "no fly list" airlines have been pursuing, the NJ Transit policy would ban anyone convicted of assaulting a NJ Transit worker for up to a year. It would be extended to a lifetime ban if the assault included a weapon.
Corbett believes this is the first rider ban among public transit agencies.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation toughening penalties for such assaults earlier this year, elevating an attack on a public or private transit employee to a third-degree aggravated assault crime. Convictions now carry a mandatory three to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000.
Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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