June 16, 2016 at 3:56 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Metro bus driver ‘glad’ over Orlando murders: source
Metro bus, gay news, Washington Blade

Investigation underway into complaint filed by passenger.

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.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • H8 bus is about right…

    • And it raises a more serious question…

      If Metro truly cares about the public safety and justice for its LGBTQ riders, why hasn’t this Metro bus driver been suspended, pending all police investigations and findings regarding this apparent crime?

      How many more DC area LGBTQ riders are possibly going to be targeted by a homophobic, threatening hate or stalking crime perpetrator — who continues to be enabled and protected by Metro’s institutionally biased management?

      And why hasn’t Metro’s General Manager Paul Weidefeld addressed this despicable incident himself?

      • Can the police do anything about hate speech? You can punish the driver but the passenger that initiated the topic apparently goes unscathed.

      • What was the crime? I’m missing something. The KKK can have rallies and say the “N” word all day and they never seemed to get charged with a crime… So how is someone being negative about gays a crime? Even if they talked about how happy they were about the deaths of these innocents, a crime? No. Unprofessional and possible violation of work place rules, yes.

        • Yeah, you are missing quite a lot.

          This public threat and/or stalking event (IMHO) was perpetrated by a mass transit operator– while hurtling a bus of passengers through city traffic. The driver essentially announced that he personally favored the terrorism and mass murder of gay people in Orlando.

          That could be perceived as a an intentional terrorist threat– and/or a bias-related threat. Threat are defined in DC criminal law, too.

          So, imagine what would happen if *ANY* airline company employee said the same thing while passengers were boarding a flight? How about a uniformed pilot or co-pilot saying the same thing?

          BTW, DC has an anti-stalking law that might apply, as well– depending on the facts and circumstances. DC’s hate crimes law predated its stalking law, so stalking is not a “designated act” under the hate crimes law– though it should be. A 50% hate crime punitive enhancement can not apply to stalking.

          I’m not a legal eagle, so do consult the DC Criminal Code and/or a DC lawyer (of which we have a few) to verify.

  • Why do gay people always say they are shocked by these incidents? Do they live in bubbles??

    How can you be 54 years old and be shocked by this? This was common over your lifetime. You couldn’t exit a gay bar without someone driving by and yelling anti-gay slurs at you a few decades ago and bashing was a constant threat even in gay neighborhoods or hangout places. What is shocking is that gay people now think being gay is a non-issue in America. Is race a non-issue in America? Hello??

    So you go after the bus driver but say nothing to the old man? You could have recorded the incident on your phone as proof. If it had been me, both of them would get an earful from me!

  • How can you be 54 years old and be shocked by this? At your age you should have lived through decades of lots of anti-gay slurs when exiting bars and worrying about bashing even in gay neighborhoods. The callousness of homophobia has no limits. It’s said enough seeing gay people under 30 living in a bubble thinking being gay in America doesn’t matter anymore in America.

    Why did you just single out the bus driver? Why does the elderly guy get a free pass? Record the incident on your phone. I would have told them both off!

    • Why slam the guy? Hindsight is always 20/20. Hate might be commonplace, doesn’t make it nonetheless shocking.

      • Well, In my experience such attitudes have been the norm not the exception toward LGBT and I’ve experienced or witnessed far worse. Orlando doesn’t really shock me either. Being out has been a risk and dangerous in my lifetime and I still believe that despite greater acceptance it is unwise to think differently now.

        Older gay people have commented to me they are surprised it didn’t happen sooner. Some one that age should have experienced it, too.

        Being shocked to me is being caught by surprise by something like that as an uncommon event. I guess having developed a thicker skin and been a lot more militant out of necessity in years past gives me a different perspective.

        I agree with his indignation though and reporting it. However if he depends on metro to come up with the proof for him he maybe in for a rude awakening. The bus driver may get punished but the old fool gets away unscathed to do it again elsewhere!

      • Oh, btw, just this week someone in this forum told me that gay activism is evil and that a pastor in Sacramento saying we deserved to all be put before a firing squad was fine if we are going to push for our rights. This is nothing new to me.

        Have you experienced your own relatives saying they would rather see a child dead than gay? What can shock you anymore when it comes to homophobia?

        • What in the world is the benefit of slamming younger LBGT adults, making blanket statements about them “living in a bubble,” and acting like your experience of homophobia is so much more legitimate than ALL gay and queer people under 30?

          “It’s sad enough seeing gay people under 30 living in a bubble thinking being gay in America doesn’t matter anymore. But you can chock that up to being naïve and not being exposed to reality. Orlando was probably the only real exposure to reality in their lives… Have you ever experienced your own relatives saying they would rather see a child dead than gay?”

          Seriously? As a 25 year old gay man, yes, I have. I’ve heard my own relatives say incredibly atrocious things, including arguments that HIV was “God’s cure” for homosexuality. I’ve also seen friends’ lives threatened by their own family. I’ve seen physical abuse that results in bruising and scarring. I’ve seen way too many young gay men take their own lives, rather than continue living in such harsh environments.

          Acting like all LGBT people under 30 are completely out of touch with reality, and completely unaccustomed to homophobia, is in NO WAY conducive to this conversation.

          I have no doubt that older generations of LGBTQ people, including some of my close mentors, have experienced many, many atrocious acts of homophobia, and I’m incredibly grateful to them for forging ahead for me and my generation, but you need to get off your high horse and stop making blanket assumptions about “gay people under 30.”

          • I’ve seen enough comments the past few years to indicate otherwise. people saying we need to integrate and our sexual identities are not an issue anymore. The complacency ihas been dangerous, shortsighted and naive! The bubble comment is spot on.

            If Orlando hadn’t happened I’d be told that I was whining about being a victim. in fact only a few weeks before I was told just that!

            When we won marriage equalty everyone acted like the floodgates to full acceptance and equality were open and nothing could stop us. Gay conservatives were posting that we should give up on our activism and move on and instead support the GOP.

            You get off your high horse thinking you know better! Your experience Wasn’t resonating anymore within the community and was being chalked up to isolated rare incidents!

            And it’s not just the under 30 crowd that is guilty of it. I stand by what I’ve said sonny boy and make no apologies! Get over it!

  • Blah blah blah dee blah. More unbelievable Metro PR excuses again from Metro’s hired gums.

    Metro’s reputation as an institutionally homophobic/ transphobic organization is reinforced yet again. They have had plenty of time to do so, but Evans and Weidefeld haven’t done a thing about stopping WMATA’s institutional bigotry and its encouragement of anti-LGBT hate crimes.

    Where are the Public Service poster adverts Metro used to display in order to inform and educate passengers about anti-LGBT hate crimes?

    This incident was blatant, OFFICIAL harassment against LGBTQ passengers, pure and simple.

    The driver in this instance should not be “retrained.” He should be FIRED for participating, aiding and abetting anti-LGBT hate and stalking crimes against LGBT passengers on Metro.

    If LGBT passengers were made to feel uncomfortable by implied threats of violence and anti-LGBT murder, at the very least, this was a violation of DC’s anti-stalking law. LGBTLU and MPD ought investigate and prosecute on that basis…

    BTW, stalking is not a designated act under DC’s hate crimes law. That’s another reason why voters should fire self-described “LGBT-friendly” politicians Mendelson and McDuffie from the Council.
    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.”**

  • Let’s get it straight.
    Your were comfortably sitting there, expecting the bus driver to fight your battles, and preferring to “feel shocked”?
    And then getting back home and filing a complaint against the driver?

    • You prefer straight hate, huh?

    • I think, though, you’d agree it was unprofessional. I’d love more details, though, on what gave the impression the driver was agreeing with the customer. For all we know he could have been nodding and saying “‘mmm-hmmm” to get the guy to shut up.

      • Seriously? Other than homophobic bias, why do you doubt the gay complainant’s account?

        Who really thinks an affirmative “mmm-hmmm” would be a good way to get the guy to merely “shut up,” as you put it?

        That’s simply not credible. You appear to be blaming the victim(s) of this homophobic harassment. Why?

        I think most reasonable people would agree that the Metro’s bus driver’s affirmative response to the subject’s endorsement of a mass murder of gay people was intended to publicly approve and encourage the violent homophobia both the driver and his hate crime stalker friend were publicly expressing.

        • As a gay man I’d sincerely hope to be free of homophobic bias! My point is, humans are notorious for misinterpreting things. and the article is frustratingly low on details,making it hard to know for sure how accurate the account is

          • Thanks for clarifying.

            And no, I didn’t take you for a J. Edgar or Roy Cohn… and, OMG(!) how may closeted GOP Members of Congress over the years? LOL.

            It is true, however, the LGBT people in positions power can– for any one of several motives– act with homophobic and/or transphobic intent.

            I just believe, after Orlando, we all ought to be more watchful, grateful and encouraging of those who take the time to report anti-LGBTQ hate and or terrorist sympathies.

            What’s despicable in this instance is that Metro hasn’t suspended the driver while investigating the complaint. Nor has Weidefeld made a serious statement about it. Given Metro’s past hate crime cover-ups, that further underscores Metro’s culture of homophobia and transphobia.

            And it certainly calls into question Metro General Manager Weidefeld’s bizarre avoidance of anti-LGBT hate crimes topics at all.

            Why wouldn’t Metro’s GM want to personally reassure the area’s LGBTQ passengers of his standards for their public safety?

  • Well, that’s good, if you’re comfortable with that and your facts and circumstances permitted you to do so. Every case is different.

    Where did your incident occur? And what became of it?

    In this instance, of course, the victim of this apparent hate or stalking crime should be congratulated here for bringing this case to light– and for filing a report with MPD’s LGBTLU– however dubious its credibility is these days.

    I’d like to read about how MPD has written it up in its 251 report– and we should know what the police CCN number is so we can track it.

    The victim in this case certainly doesn’t deserve the unfair criticism and carping he’s getting elsewhere here in comments from what should be a supportive LGBT ally.

  • And what was the result of that report with the police? Was justice served? Can the police really do something for you for a slur?

  • Metro’s driver certainly knew the implied violent threats he and his passenger friend were conveying to any LGBT Metro riders within earshot of their conversation.

    I hope the Blade finds out soon whether said Metro driver has been suspended or not, pending a thorough Metro Transit Police’s investigation. And for that matter, who at Metro Transit Police is handling the investigation?

    Jack Evans and Paul Weidefeld ought to inform the area’s LGBTQ riders just how much OFFICIAL Metro homophobic/ transphobic harassment of LGBTQ riders WMAATA will continue to tolerate.

  • Whats the chance that the h8r will even be reprimanded?

  • Thanks. That turned out well for a much lower level bias-related crime (biased name-calling with aggressive conduct as a mass transit vehicle operator) than the terrorist and implied hate-crime threats that have been elements of this Metro operator’s conduct.

    Still, I would caution the general public about negotiating on their own with Metro. And in any event, make sure that they receive a CCN# from responding MPD police officers, and that a copy of the police report (Form 251) is obtained from any MPD District Station after 24 hours.

    It is just as bad if DC’s police violate the law by failing to report such suspected hate crime incidents on the 251 and to the FBI and/or ‘losing’ the 251 report altogether.

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