Surveillance video first obtained by KING 5 shows a King County Metro bus driver punching, kicking and throwing a large object at a passenger who did not respond to requests to exit a bus.
[Warning: The raw video in the playlist contains graphic language.]
The incident occurred last month at the Renton Transit Center after a rider refused to exit a bus at the conclusion of its route. The passenger, appearing to be asleep, is roused multiple times by the driver to no effect. The standoff ultimately escalated to a violent confrontation, with the driver employing physical force akin to a barroom fight.
The video shows the 61-year-old driver, Dennis J. Echols, unsuccessfully trying to wake up the passenger, Ethan S. McKinney. McKinney, 23, appears unresponsive but not aggressive. The video shows Echols as he becomes more and more aggravated by McKinney's failure to exit the bus.
Echols then threatens McKinney with a large tire wedge. The driver then hits McKinney with wedge after McKinney spits at him. Echols then pins McKinney against a bench outside the bus and strikes him seven times and then throws him to the ground.
The incident ended after Echols called 911 and two Renton Police officers responded. McKinney was taken into custody after refusing to cooperate with the police and tried to leave the scene. Echols was charged later after a King County Sheriff's detective investigated and determined the driver was also responsible for the violent confrontation. He has since been fired.
In an incident report written afterward, Echols wrote, "He spit in my face. I lost it."
Echols was terminated from his job on December 4; Echols and Mckinney were both charged with assault and were arraigned in King County Superior Court on Wednesday. Both men declined to comment to KING 5.
King County Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond said Friday that Echols' actions were "inexcusable, appalling and unacceptable."
"Spitting is a felony assault, so what the passenger did was wrong," Desmond said. "But that in no way excuses the driver." Desmond said the driver should have called for help from personnel inside the transit center.
"This driver's reprehensible actions were an aberration from the fine work Metro employees do every day. Our drivers often face difficult-and sometimes threatening-situations, and respond appropriately," Desmond said later Friday in a statement sent to the news media.
The Amalgamated Transit Union's Local 587, which represents Metro's drivers, declined to comment on the video and Echols' firing.
The November 18 incident involving Echols and McKinney was the latest in a string of violent altercations on Metro buses. On November 25, passengers on a West Seattle route disarmed a gun-toting man who was trying to rob them. In August, a homeless and apparently mentally ill man shot one bus driver and exchanged fire with police during a morning rush hour incident in the heart of Seattle's downtown.
In 2010 a series of violent attacks on Metro buses prompted pledges to boost security throughout the system. The most high-profile attack occurred in the downtown transit tunnel in January when a group of teenagers attacked a teenage girl as three security guards initially failed to take action. In another incident that month, a 56-year-old female driver was beaten by three teens in Tukwila.
In August 2010, three minors, including a 10-year-old boy armed with a handgun, attacked a 17-year-old boy on a bus in South Seattle. And in December, a pregnant teenager was beaten during a confrontation with other teens on a Metro bus, an incident that prompted Metro to add more surveillance cameras to its bus fleet.
In August 2011, a Metro bus rider was stabbed by a man on a downtown Seattle route.