A man who allegedly went on a 30-minute-long tirade directed at a female TTC bus driver that he filmed and posted online has been arrested and is facing several charges.
Toronto police said on Sept. 6 at about 10:45 a.m., a TTC bus driver stopped their vehicle and was attempting to reposition it before allowing passengers to get on when a man ran across the intersection of Drewry Avenue and Bathurst Street, and started to punch the bus and began yelling and swearing at the driver to open the doors.
In a Sept. 12 news release, police said the driver did not open the doors “due to the man's aggressive behaviour.”
He then allegedly started recording the interaction and stood in front of the bus, they said.
Investigators said the suspect then entered the bus and “continued the behaviour” when the driver let some of the passengers exit the bus.
The driver then advised other passengers that the bus was no longer in service, police said.
He eventually exited the bus.
During an interview with CTV News Toronto on Tuesday, Marvin Alfred, president ATU Local 113, said the incident is “horrible, it’s absolutely demoralizing while you’re trying to do your job.”
“It’s tough to watch that video,” he said of the “verbally abusive” interaction.
In the full video, viewed by CTV News Toronto, the man filming makes numerous references to the driver’s race and at one point derisively calls her a “welfare recipient.” He also states that the driver “thinks she is a gangster and she decides who she lets on this bus.”
Another passenger eventually comes to the driver’s defence after the accused gets off the bus, but continues to accost the driver from outside.
The union believes the attack was racially motivated and has identified the operator as a Black woman.
The voice heard in the video can be heard using profane language repeatedly, hurls insults, complaining the operator won’t let him board the bus.
“The individual just kept going on and on and on at them, attacking them, using racist language, in misogynist terms, just kept on attacking her,” Alfred said.
According to Alfred, emergency officials did not attend the scene.
“There were no police and no TTC supervisory staff,” he said.
“You have someone being victimized by somebody in the public and this operator at the end of the incident had no one attend the scene.”
Toronto police told CTV News Toronto that officers did not attend because they were not called while it occurred and a report about the incident was filed afterwards.
The TTC, meanwhile, said they are looking into its response to the incident.
Spokesperson Stuart Green said that at the same time as the alleged tirade, there was an injury at track level at Sheppard West Station with first response resources in the area deployed to that incident, including monitoring station crowding and managing bus shuttles.
“However, we continue to assess what we could have done differently to assist this operator during the incident," Green said.
“Like everyone, we are shocked by what this video shows,” he said.
“TTC operators in the field are performing a vital public service. So to see one being subjected to this sort of vile abuse is appalling.”
Green said the head of bus operations was in direct contact with the operator as soon as he was made aware of the incident to express concern and support. He also said that the safety of employees and customers is the TTC’s top priority at all times and it works closely with union partners to make sure employees are safe while on the job.
The operator has been offered peer and counselling resources, the TTC said.
Following the incident, Alfred said the operator had to drive her bus “affected and traumatized” out of service to another location to engage a supervisor in-person.
There should be more resources in place to protect people in situations like this, the union president said. He also stressed that the operator wants to ensure this type of incident never happens to anyone else.
On Tuesday evening, policeannouced the arrest of Toronto resident Paul Sampalean. He has been charged with one count each of mischief, intimidation, and causing a disturbance.
Sampalean is scheduled to appear in court at the Toronto Regional Bail Centre, 2201 Finch Avenue West, on Wednesday, September 13, 2023, at 10 a.m., in room 105.