ATA stabbing suspects in custody, charges pending

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- On Saturday, an ATA bus driver was beaten and stabbed by two riders at 31st and Askew. Police said late Thursday they have two people in custody in connection to the crime.

Their names have not been released by police.

City leaders and city bus drivers want drivers more protected from violent riders, but how to accomplish that is both controversial and expensive.

The driver is also a pastor at a local church. He asked the suspects to leave the bus because their bus tickets had expired. They then cursed at him and refused to pay their fare. Even after someone paid their fare, they continued to argue with the driver. When he tried to remove one of the men, they pinned him down, punched and stabbed him several times.

One of the safety proposals involves enclosing drivers in Plexiglass so no one can touch them easily, but many drivers have an issue with that solution, which was tried five years ago without a lot of enthusiasm from the drivers.

"Frankly the operators were not fond of it. They felt like they were encaged in the driver's area and really they had no option because there's not a door on the driver's side to exit. The only way to exit is over there so they kind of felt trapped at time," said B.J.. Garcia, head of safety management for the ATA. "So when we did try it, it was not fondly thought of by the operators."

There is an emergency button on the left side of the driver that drivers can punch to notify dispatch if they're in danger, but some believe drivers should have greater protection in the Plexiglass.

The city has about 300 ATA buses and Installing a Plexiglass cage would cost about $15,000 for each ATA bus.

Charges against the two people are pending, authorities said.

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