Bill would make assault on public transit workers, bus drivers a felony

After two Hillsborough County bus drivers were stabbed by passengers last year, lawmakers want to do more to keep them safe statewide.

It’s been two months since Schnaider Prophete sat behind the wheel of a bus.

“It's rough, it's rough. It's been a chain reaction in every aspect of my life,” said Prophete, who added that he has suffered economically, emotionally and psychologically from the attack.

The HART bus driver is still recovering after he was brutally attacked by a passenger with a knife and pepper-sprayed in November.

“The MRI revealed damages in my spine, in my neck. It also revealed the meniscus tears in my knees,” said Prophete. He also said he continues to have vision problems with one of his eyes.

Six months earlier in May 2019, a passenger stabbed and killed HART bus driver Thomas Dunn. Both attacks prompted HART to install protective barriers around drivers on every bus.

“Everybody says they don't want to be Mr. Prophete, they don't want to be Mr. Thomas Dunn,” he said.

In January, State Representative Mike Beltran (R-Lithia) introduced a bill that would make it a felony to assault transit workers and would require buses statewide to have barriers.

“These bus operators go to work every day. They are dedicated to their mission. They get seniors, veterans, and folks who don’t have their own transportation to work,” said Rep. Beltran.

The proposed law would also require drivers to train on how to de-escalate situations. Prophete said the proposal has good intentions but isn’t enough.

“In my case, it wasn't a matter of communication or de-escalation. The man was outraged before he got on the bus,” he said.

Prophete told FOX 13 he would like to see drivers have more options to defend themselves.

“Under these circumstances, I think the bus drivers must be treated the same way they treated pilots, allow them to have concealed weapons,” said Prophete.

No matter how drivers are protected, they want their lives to matter.

“I think it's the wish of every driver to go home alive, the same way they came in,” he said.

HART said it is spearheading the proposal in Tallahassee, and if passed lawmakers ultimately hope the bill would reduce attacks against drivers.