Times Chronicle & Public Spirit

Man draws prison for assaulting SEPTA bus driver in Cheltenham

Police said Shawn Johnson sprayed unknown liquid in bus driver's eyes during assault

- By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@pottsmerc.com

NORRISTOWN » A Philadelph­ia man is headed to state prison for assaulting a female SEPTA bus driver in Cheltenham Township by spraying an unknown liquid in the driver’s eyes after he complained about the heat on the bus.

Shawn Johnson, 45, of the 1700 block of Elston Street, was sentenced in Montgomery County Court to 2 to 6 years in a state correction­al facility after he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of aggravated assault causing bodily injury in connection with the Oct. 20, 2020, incident on a bus traveling in the 2500 block of Cheltenham Avenue.

Judge Thomas P. Rogers, who imposed the sentence as part of a plea agreement, ordered Johnson to have no contact with the bus driver as a condition of the sentence.

An investigat­ion began about 8:33 a.m. Oct. 20 when Cheltenham police were dispatched to the SEPTA bus loop located at 2501 Cheltenham Avenue in the Wyncote section of the

township for a report that a male passenger had sprayed an unknown liquid into the bus driver’s eyes, according to a criminal complaint filed by Cheltenham Police Officer Chad Smith.

Smith said the female driver was in distress.

“She was crying and had her hands over her eyes and was trying to flush her eyes with water that someone had provided her. She stated to me that her eyes were burning. I noticed a bubbly liquid on door that enters the driver’s area,” Smith alleged.

The victim told police Johnson boarded the bus at Broad and Olney streets in Philadelph­ia and that over the course of the trip Johnson was complainin­g “about the heat of the bus.”

“She stated that she was ignoring him as he complained. She stated that when she pulled up to the bus loop stop, Johnson walked up to her and sprayed an unknown liquid into her eyes,” Smith alleged.

The driver was transporte­d to Chestnut Hill Hospital for examinatio­n and treatment.

“Numerous passengers had to exit the bus and wait for another bus due to this incident and the driver being transporte­d to the hospital,” Smith said.

A female witness told police she observed the incident as Johnson was getting off the bus.

“She stated that Johnson bumped into the area where the driver was sitting and sprayed a liquid into the driver’s face and eyes,” Smith wrote in the arrest affidavit, adding the witness took two photograph­s of Johnson which showed a white bottle in his right hand.

A short time later, the witness contacted police to notify them she observed Johnson leaving a nearby Walgreens store.

When police caught up to Johnson and asked him about the incident on the bus he allegedly replied that the driver “deserved it,” adding “it was only water,” according to the arrest affidavit.

Court documents do not indicate if authoritie­s identified the liquid that had been sprayed on the driver.

Other charges of simple assault, harassment and recklessly endangerin­g another person were dismissed against Johnson as part of the plea agreement.

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