WASHINGTON - A D.C. man is under arrest after he allegedly threatened to kill a Metrobus driver on Tuesday.
Police say the suspect refused to pay his fare, then confronted the driver with a knife and threatened his life more than once. According to a Metro spokesman, the suspect had a folding knife with a 3 1/2 inch blade.
It happened on the X2 line at a stop on 8th and H streets in Northeast D.C.
An officer arrested the suspect soon after and identified him as Davon Abney. According to a police report, Abney continued to make threats against the driver.
"When we talked to [the driver] a little earlier, he said, 'I'm just glad to be able to go home to my family. I almost didn't think I was going to make it home,'" said Carroll Thomas with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689.
While major crime is down on Metro, assaults on bus drivers are up about 23 percent over the last year. According to Metro, there have been 66 driver assaults so far in 2017 compared to 53 for the same time period last year.
In a little over a month, a woman was arrested and accused of throwing urine on a driver, and police say another woman was arrested for spraying a driver with Sunny Delight.
"ATU Local 689, the union representing bus operators, mechanics, maintenance and clerical employees of WMATA is calling - again- for an immediate increase in transit police presence," the union said in a statement. "In addition, the union is calling on the legislators of Washington D.C. to enhance protections for transit workers by classifying assaults against transit workers as a felony, and allow Metro to ban repeat offenders from the entire system. Transit assaults are at an epidemic level and Metro must address this urgent issue of safety so that workers and the riding public are protected."
In some cities, all assaults on transit workers are automatic felonies. Even the recent urine attack is only a misdemeanor.
"We and the union agree on so much and agree penalties should be strengthened," said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.
It would be up to lawmakers to make that change in regard to increasing penalties.
Metro currently has no policy in place to ban or suspend riders, but Stessel said the agency is looking at the possibility of creating one.
He said Metro has increased the number of transit police officers embedded on buses from about a dozen three years ago to 40 now. He said there are currently 550 transit officers, and, during rush hour, 1,200 buses in service.
The union is suggesting D.C., Maryland and Virginia officers join transit officers on buses.
"Everybody needs to come to the table and let's find some solutions to problems," Thomas said.