‘Zero tolerance.’ Charlotte transit chief cites new safety steps after latest shooting

·3 min read
Keilen Frazier/Observer file photo

Two nights after shots were fired into another public bus, Charlotte’s transit chief sought to reassure riders in a video address Friday night.

John Lewis, CEO of Charlotte Area Transit System, cited new and ongoing safety measures in his post.

“There have been rising concerns regarding the safety and security of CATS,” Lewis said in a 1-minute, 46-second video post.

“Let me be clear, CATS has a zero tolerance policy for violence, threats or harm towards our employees, operators and riders,” he said.

Lewis said CATS has increased security patrols and is testing a real-time camera system for passengers on CATS buses and trains.

Those steps join such ongoing measures as cameras in all CATS vehicles and on agency property, and an emergency alert notification system for CATS vehicle operators.

“Anyone riding our system or at one of our facilities can always use the CATS See Say app to quickly and discreetly report safety and security concerns directly to law enforcement,” Lewis said. “And you can always call 911 if you see an incident occur.

CATS also has “strengthened partnerships with law enforcement,” he added.

Shots fired into Charlotte bus

Lewis’ remarks came two nights after police arrested a man suspected of firing several shots into a CATS bus just after midnight Wednesday in the 8700 block of Nations Ford Road.

Jason Wright, 37, is charged with carrying a concealed gun, possession of a firearm by a felon, discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling/moving vehicle, possession of marijuana up to one-half ounces and possession of marijuana paraphernalia.

No passengers were aboard, and the driver wasn’t hurt, police said.

Ethan Rivera murder

On Feb. 11, CATS bus driver Ethan Rivera was fatally shot in what Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police called a road rage incident.

Darian Dru Thavychith, 21, is charged with Rivera’s murder after being arrested in Shawnee, Kansas, on Feb. 28.

After Rivera’s death, unions and other worker groups demanded that CATS provide more security for its drivers and employees — including bulletproof shields. When CATS released a video of the Rivera shooting in March, the agency detailed a number of ways it would improve its security. None included bulletproof shields.

After Wednesday’s incident on Nations Ford Road, an official with the union that represents CATS operators called for more action.

“This is a serious situation that needs to be addressed immediately and it still has not been,” Nichel Dunlap-Thompson of the Southern Workers Assembly told Queen City News. “It’s unfortunate the city officials don’t understand how imperative it is for them to make changes so these operators can remain safe.”

CATS to troublemakers: ‘We see you’

In his address to the community Friday night, Lewis reiterated a warning to potential troublemakers.

“Anyone who breaks the law or CATS policies on our buses, trains or on our property, we see you and we will pursue every effort to hold you accountable,“ he said.

To the general community, Lewis said: “We all share the same goal: to return home safely at the end of each and every day. CATS continues to listen to all suggestions and concerns to better our transit system and make your commute safe and enjoyable.”