SURREY – Coast Mountain bus drivers rallied outside Surrey provincial court Friday to lobby authorities for better protection for bus drivers.
Just after, 23-year-old Brandon John Watterworth – charged with robbery and breach of undertaking or recognizance in connection to a Feb. 3 incident involving a driver – had a court appearance inside.
Watterworth is expected to appear by video today (July 17) to find out when he will be sentenced.
At the time of the incident, Transit Police spokesperson Anne Drennan said the suspect was "rapping and swearing profusely" on a bus he boarded at 168th Street and Fraser Highway.
The bus driver told him over the PA system to stop swearing, but he didn’t, she said.
When the bus arrived at the Surrey Central bus loop, police say the man allegedly assaulted the bus driver, punching him in the face and grabbing his glasses, then ran toward the SkyTrain and came back and assaulted him two more times. The driver suffered cuts and bruises to his head and face but was not hospitalized.
He was arrested two days after the incident. Watterworth is well known to police with over 100 previous recorded encounters including a carrying a concealed weapons charge and assaulting a police officer.
During the rally before Watterworth’s hearing Friday, Ruth Armstrong, a Unifor 111 officer, hoped that the accused would be charged with assault as soon as possible because Watterworth is receiving double time by remaining in custody.
"I’m hoping that the assault on our operator sees some sentencing and some jail time," she said.
Armstrong went on to say that there are currently 30 cases of attacks on drivers going through the court system.
"It’s really disheartening on one hand that we have that many assaults and there are that many going on the system. On the other hand, because of our members coming, transit police and security and the company attending these court hearings, crown council is really paying attention and cases that wouldn’t have gone to court before are now going to court. It is making a difference," Armstrong said.
The union officer went on to say that assault is much more than what happens at the time of the attack and drivers have to deal with much more than bruises.
"Assault is just not a 10-second enactment. It’s something that goes on forever," Armstrong said. "The average time off an operator takes when they’re assaulted is 54 days and there’s a lot of mental distress."
The victim of the attack – who is still off work – was present at the hearing, but declined to speak to the media.