ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — A man is charged with attacking a local trolley driver.
The news came as a shock to Richard Hawkins who takes the trolley every day.
“There’s a lot of violent talk and idiots behaving improperly, loudly, abusive, rude, crude behavior,” he explained what he witnesses on public transportation in Pinellas County. “It’s really incredible what gets on the busses.”
He said he’s seen a lot of bad behavior, but never anything like what the police said happened on Tuesday.
St. Petersburg police told 8 On Your Side Obdulio Chacon got onto a trolley near the pier while the driver was on break.
As that driver stepped back onto the trolley, things quickly took a turn.
“Unprovoked, Chacon started punching the driver right there at the doorway,” St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway described.
Court documents describe how the driver then fell backward down the steps of the trolley, hitting his head on the concrete.
The affidavit went on to say Chacon then beat the driver repeatedly as he laid unconscious on the ground.
In less than 24 hours, a ‘be on the lookout’ form was sent to Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority operators in an effort to catch Chacon.
“On Wednesday, one of the drivers in Largo noticed Chacon was on his bus, contacted Largo Police Department, [and] they came out and arrested the defendant there in Largo,” Chief Holloway explained.
It’s the power of modern-day technology.
Chief Holloway says for criminals, those cameras are not your friend.
“If you’re going to commit a crime nowadays, there’s technology that you’ll be on someone’s camera at some period of time and it’s only a matter of time before detectives or the news media help us find those cameras so we can bring these people to justice,” he said.
But could more be done to protect drivers?
The PSTA said the county has made many safety improvements with drivers in mind.
“We’ve improved our safety barriers, we installed those,” PSTA public information officer Stephanie Weaver said. “We have new protocol they have to be vigilant when they get off the bus, they have to be vigilant when they get on the bus and while driving.”
“That’s one of the dangers our operators face,” she said. “We feel for them and couldn’t be more thankful they drive and keep Pinellas County moving forward.”
Still, the union representing the PSTA drivers says more needs to be done.
“I want PSTA to mean what they say, ‘safety first’,” SEIU Florida Public Services Union representative April Murphy said. “Let’s have a discussion and figure out how that is.”
“We aren’t allowed to carry guns,” she continued. “Maybe they can get some mace for our drivers in extreme situations that allow them to use it, but our drivers are stressed out and scared every day.”
The PSTA said the driver was back at home and improving day by day.
As for Chacon, he will await his day in court.
Chief Holloway told 8 On Your Side Chacon has an extensive 30-page criminal history dating back to 1996.
“I can tell you it ranges from aggravated assault, aggravated battery, aggravated battery on a pregnant female,” he said before listing multiple crimes involving firearms.