RTA bus driver Artis Hughes. Marvin Fong, Plain Dealer file
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The RTA has fired bus driver Artis Hughes, whose uppercut to the jaw of an irate female passenger was captured on a video that went viral and was seen by millions around the world.
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority spokeswoman Mary Shaffer confirmed that Hughes, a 25-year veteran of the RTA, was fired this morning for violating the rules of conduct.
"The employee handbook says an employee can be discharged if he uses overt force, strikes ... a member of the public," she said. "We understand he feels that his actions were in self-defense, but we disagree. The appropriate action should have been to pull over the bus and alert transit police and let them handle it."
At a press conference this afternoon outside the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 268, Hughes and union officials said a grievance would be filed.
Hughes has been suspended without pay since Oct. 11, the day a video of his Sept. 18 confrontation with a passenger, Shi' Dea Lane, 25, of Cleveland, went viral.
The video showed the Hughes and Lane involved in an escalating argument, replete with profanity.
"Until this video went viral, no one cared," said Nix. "Now, the RTA is saying that anyone can do anything to our drivers and they are not allowed to defend themselves."
In the video, Lane appeared to move toward Hughes while he was behind the wheel. Witnesses said Lane spit on and hit Hughes, which Lane's lawyer denies.
Hughes said he feels betrayed by the RTA.
"I feel let down," he said at the press conference. "I feel like they should support their drivers. I was just trying to do my job. ... I've run over those events in my mind 1,000 times and I don't know what I could have done differently."
The fight occurred while Hughes drove through Beachwood. The city prosecutor has charged Hughes with assault and Lane with disorderly conduct.
The incident was one of several violent events that took place on an RTA bus recently.
Last month, a passenger who had refused to pay a fare threw hot coffee in the face of a bus driver, shortly after they both had stepped off a bus parked at RTA's Cedar-University bus loop. The driver was treated for injuries.
Local 268 President William Nix (left) stands with fired bus driver Artis Hughes and community activist Art McKoy outside union headquarters this afternoon, vowing to fight Hughes' termination for hitting a female passenger during an altercation.