Angry Bus Driver Breaks Nose of Passenger Who Questioned His Driving

Plenty of drivers chafe at criticism from their backseat counterparts -- but Phoenix bus driver Michael Berry took his annoyance to a whole new level.

Berry, a driver with Valley Metro, responded to complaints from a 28-year-old passenger last April by allegedly attacking him with his fists. Witnesses told police that Berry slammed the bus into park, then punched the young man in the face. When the man fell to the floor, witnesses say, Berry continued to pummel him.

The man, Richard Hicks, allegedly suffered a broken nose, a concussion, and "permanent disfigurement of his nose," according to a lawsuit filed last week in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Hicks' attorney, Ursula Gordwin, said that to the best of her knowledge, the bus driver hasn't been prosecuted -- even though her client wanted to press charges.

The police report recommends a charge of assault be filed against Berry, but any decision to proceed would rest with the Phoenix City Prosecutor. New Times could find no record of prosecution.

According to their report, police were called to the scene of a parked bus at 35th Avenue and Baseline at approximately 3 p.m. on April 8, 2008. Berry, the bus driver, told police that Hicks had become angry when Berry drove right past a bus stop with people waiting. Berry said Hicks called him an "ass" and threw his soda at him -- and that Berry had to punch the griping passenger in the face because he thought he "was going to be attacked," according to the report.

But Hicks told a different story, one echoed by three of the four eye witnesses interviewed by the police. He agreed that he'd questioned Berry after the driver sped past some would-be passengers -- and, yes, he called him an ass. But Hicks said the drink fell out of his hand when the driver slammed on the brakes, and that Berry began the attack by punching him in the back of the head.

"Hicks fell to the floor after being punched," according to the police report. "Berry then got out of his seat, approached Hicks, and began to punch him some more. While punching Hicks, Berry said, 'You messed with the wrong driver.'"

As one witness told police, "Berry stood over Hicks while he was on the floor and punched Hicks several times." Gordwin says the attack left her client with $12,000 in medical bills.

Police attempted to retrieve the bus' video recording box later that afternoon and was told it had recorded no information, "possibly due to malfunction," according to the report. Hmmm.

Gordwin tells New Times that her client has since left Arizona. He's not looking for a big pay day, she says. "We're just looking for reasonable compensation," she says. "Something good enough to make him whole. I just don't understand why Risk Management wouldn't want to settle with me."

Gordwin says she's been told that driver Berry no longer works for Valley Metro. The agency didn't respond to our request for comment by deadline; we'll update if we hear from them.

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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske