A gay man filed a complaint against a Metro bus driver this week accusing the driver of enthusiastically agreeing with another passenger’s statements that he was glad that 49 patrons in an Orlando gay nightclub were shot to death by a lone gunman on June 12.
Gay D.C. resident Dwayne Smith, 54, told the Washington Blade he was shocked and offended when he overheard the driver of the H8 bus that travels through the city’s Brookland section express what appeared to be his approval of the Orlando slayings.
In a written compliant he filed with Metro, Smith said the incident began when an elderly man boarded the bus at Hawaii Avenue and 2nd Street, N.E. and remained standing next to the driver after he paid his fare.
“He [the passenger] said he was glad that they shot the gay people and talked negatively about gays and lesbians,” Smith states in his complaint. “To my surprise, the bus driver was agreeing with everything he said. I was waiting and watching to see how long he was going to keep it up,” Smith’s complaint says.
Smith told the Blade he was sitting two rows from the driver on the door side of the bus while on his way to work for his night job at 10:15 p.m. on Monday, June 13.
“I began to feel uncomfortable,” Smith says in his complaint. “I had intended to go to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station but I exited the bus at the Brookland station,” his complaint says. “I was going to address the situation, but as I was arising to leave I looked at another passenger who saw my distress and motioned that I not say anything probably because I would have made the situation worse.”
In his complaint, Smith urged Metro officials to “check your audio and video for this hate speech in which your employee participated.” He said he planned to report the incident to the D.C. police LGBT Liaison Unit.
“I am requesting that the driver face a suspension and also receive professional development training,” his complaint says.
Smith forwarded to the Blade an email response he received from his complaint from Jeremy Franklin, Metro’s director of customer service.
“Thank you for contacting us to report this incident,” Franklin says in his email. “I apologize that you had to endure this unacceptable behavior from one of our employees.”
Franklin added, “I have escalated this complaint for investigation and I will follow up with you when I have the outcome. Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you need any assistance while the investigation is ongoing.”
In a statement to the Blade, Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel said, “Metro shares in the nation’s grief over Sunday’s attack on an LGBT nightclub.”
The statement adds: “We are aware of a complaint of a bus operator allegedly ‘agreeing’ with an unidentified passenger who made disturbing, unacceptable statements about the tragedy in Orlando. We have responded to the individual who submitted the complaint and are working to gather additional facts as part of an investigation.”
In response to Smith’s request in his complaint that Metro check the “audio and video” to look into the driver’s alleged “hate speech,” Stessel said, “Our busses do not record audio.”