I-TEAM: RTA bus driver gets job back after fighting with woman on board

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team has found an RTA bus driver is getting his job back a year after video showed him fighting with a woman on board.

An arbitrator just ruled driver Anthony Lesley should be reinstated, and he should collect lost back pay and benefits.

In June of last year, bus cameras captured a woman storming up the aisle of an RTA bus and getting in the face of Lesley. He pushed the woman back into a seat. But, she went at him again.

They fought with fists flying.

Finally, Lesley held the woman down, and he, ultimately, did not let her off the bus until police came.

RTA fired the driver for “escalating the situation” and “engaging … in force.”

But, Lesley appealed, and an arbitrator decided he acted in self-defense.

The ruling says, in part, “It … cannot be expected that a driver in a high-pressure situation will recall every detail of … annual training … and respond ‘by-the-book.’”

The arbitrator also wrote, if the driver had just gotten off the bus, that passenger could have hurt someone else on board, or jumped behind the wheel. And, if the driver had simply let the passenger off, other people may have rushed on to get involved since the driver had been fighting with a woman.

The driver’s union fought to get his job back.

William Nix, president of Amalgamated Transit Uunion local 268, said, “The video was not looking favorable because that’s a man and a woman.”

But, Nix argues, a quick look at the video doesn’t tell the entire story. And the driver found himself confronted by passenger in a rage threatening him and putting other riders in danger.

Nix added, “We only have driver and customer service training. They don’t have self-defense training, or courses to show you how to contain a person.”

RTA released a statement that said, “The process is underway to reinstate Mr. Lesley with back pay and benefits, in accordance with Arbitrator Colman Lalka’s final and binding ruling. Importantly, Mr. Lesley will be re-trained in order to reinforce de-escalation techniques as well as other customer service and safety protocols expected of RTA operators. As always it remains RTA’s mission to provide safe, reliable, clean and courteous public transportation.”

Meantime, Lesley plead no contest to a criminal charge of unlawful restraint.

Police also filed charges of disorderly conduct against the passenger, Cierra Gill. But records show she’s never been found and hauled into court.

In the end, stunning video helped get a driver fired, but now, it has also helped him get his job back.

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