Video calls into ques­tion charges against CTA em­ploy­ees fired for fight with rider

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION -

Now that a sec­ond, longer video has sur­faced of a June 11 punch-throw­ing fight be­tween two CTA em­ploy­ees and a bus rider, we hope the tran­sit agency and pros­e­cu­tors thor­oughly re­view ev­ery de­ci­sion they have made since then.

The CTA fired bus driver Leonard An­drews Jr., who was the first to be in­volved in the fight about 2 a.m. with the pas­sen­ger. Also fired was em­ployee Mi­lan Wil­liams, who came on the scene mo­ments later and is seen body slam­ming the 43-year old pas­sen­ger, Lawrence Mad­den.

CTA of­fi­cials say the em­ploy­ees were fired for vi­o­lat­ing sev­eral rules, in­clud­ing con­duct un­be­com­ing a CTA em­ployee and fail­ure to re­port the in­ci­dent.

An­drews, 23, has been charged with mis­de­meanor bat­tery and Wil­liams, 46, has been charged with felony ag­gra­vated bat­tery.

We sus­pect many view­ers thought the penal­ties and charges were ap­pro­pri­ate when all they saw was the orig­i­nal video that went vi­ral, which showed only the body slam­ming. But on newly re­leased CTA sur­veil­lance video, it ap­pears that Mad­den may have thrown the first punch. When the bus driver ap­par­ently re­sponded by punch­ing and kick­ing Mad­den, Mad­den made no ap­par­ent at­tempt to back off.

One plau­si­ble in­ter­pre­ta­tion is that the bus driver felt he was be­ing at­tacked and the sec­ond CTA em­ployee felt he was com­ing to the aid of a co-worker.

The CTA and law of­fi­cers may know more. But the longer video sug­gests this is a case that needs a care­ful reap­praisal, es­pe­cially the crim­i­nal charges.

About 25 sec­onds into the video, Mad­den gets off the CTA bus near 77th and Western. About 27 sec­onds, he ap­pears to take a swing at An­drews. At 30 sec­onds, An­drews ap­pears to re­spond by kick­ing and punch­ing Mad­den. At 1 minute and 19 sec­onds, Wil­liams en­ters the scene and, four sec­onds later, picks up Mad­den and body slams him to the pave­ment.

Even the longer video does not tell the full story. And the CTA un­der­stand­ably is con­cerned about the op­tics of a pas­sen­ger be­ing body slammed by an em­ployee.

Tamara Walker, one of Mad­den’s at­tor­neys, told the Sun-Times that re­gard­less of whether her client threw a punch, the two CTA em­ploy­ees were out of line.

Also, An­drews could have sim­ply driven on rather than en­gage with Mad­den to be­gin with.

But what is fair and pro­por­tion­ate pun­ish­ment?

If the pas­sen­ger did throw the first punch, the con­text changes. The CTA should re­view ev­ery ac­tion — and re­ac­tion.

CTA SUR­VEIL­LANCE VIDEO SCREEN GRABS

These im­ages from CTA sur­veil­lance video show bus pas­sen­ger Lawrence Mad­den Jr. ap­proach CTA em­ployee Leonard An­drews Jr. and throw a punch. In the video, An­drews is then seen kick­ing and punch­ing Mad­den be­fore an­other CTA worker ap­proaches and body slams Mad­den.

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