TTC driver charged with assault after scuffle
The teen at the centre of a fare dispute with a TTC driver illustrated with his hands how the driver allegedly grabbed him around the neck during their scuffle that ended with an assault charge being laid against the driver.
"He started patting his chest like that and said, ‘Hit me, hit me’ … And before I knew it, his hands were around my neck and my head smashed onto the glass. I had to kick him off of me," Ricardo Jardim, 18, told CTV Toronto on Wednesday.
Toronto police say the driver and the 18-year-old commuter got into a dispute over the fare on the westbound Lawrence Avenue West bus late Wednesday morning.
Jardim said the driver stopped the bus near Lawrence and Bayview Avenue and asked other passengers to get off.
The dispute between the two men became physical.
Jardim said he did yell at the driver after the driver allegedly harassed Laura Vazquez, his girlfriend. However, he claims he never touched the driver.
Jardim tried to claim a student's fare, but he didn't have his student card with him. Vazquez said she paid the difference in fare, but the dispute continued to percolate.
"I don't know. He just grabbed him … he choked him. He was just gasping for air, and I said, 'Stop, stop,'" she said, adding, "I'm in complete disbelief that a TTC driver would do such a thing.”
Police took photos of Jardim's neck for evidence. They will be reviewing security footage from the bus.
Bereket Hagos, a 30-year-old Toronto resident, has been charged in connection with the case. He will appear in court on May 25.
The TTC has said that every day, a TTC employee becomes the victim of an assault.
Brad Ross, a TTC spokesperson, told CTV Toronto that this was an isolated incident.
"We need to be careful to realize that these are allegations and that we need to hear both sides of the story," he said.
At the same time, TTC operators are supposed to follow certain protocols to resolve fare disputes, Ross said.
"Once we complete our own investigation, then we'll take whatever appropriate action is necessary," he said.
The TTC has been under fire in recent months over complaints about surly operators, streetcar and bus drivers taking unreasonably long coffee breaks and other service problems.
As a result, the TTC itself established a service advisory panel. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 held the first of three town halls with the public to talk about how service issues can be resolved.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Naomi Parness