Wednesday, September 9, 2009

M.T.P.D. M.I.A.

From reader Michael:

I was running late for work yesterday and arrived at Union Station at about 9 a.m. to begin my trip up the Red Line to Dupont Circle--normally a 15-minute trip. In the station, a man I couldn't see started screaming, or rather whooping.

It sounded like a cross between a really bad cough and a tribal chant. I thought nothing of it, really. Perhaps some guy took to much coke, and boarded the train that arrived a minute or two later.

But you will never guess who was in my car. The man began his whoop again--very loudly--for a few seconds then started yelling.

He said something to the effect of "I am from Kenya, remember that, and tell everyone." Again and again he said this, along with a few other lines such as "Michael Jordan, Tupac, all from Kenya."

He returned to his whooping while everyone got increasingly uncomfortable.

As the train arrived in Judiciary Square, I started to compose a text message to 911, being quite sure the situation was getting worse by the minute.

However, it seemed someone had beat me to it and alerted the operator through one of the call boxes because the the train held at Judiciary while people fled.

The operator came on the PA and asked "transit [police] please contact the operator."

I stopped my text thinking we were OK.

While many people got off the train, some more got on, and the train was still quite crowded. After holding at Judiciary for another 90 seconds, the operator asked again for transit police.

A few minutes later, we proceeded to Chinatown.

On the way to Chinatown, the whooping man began pacing up and down the train asking everyone "are you my enemy?"

I was so sure he was going to blow up the train or something, but I was equally sure police were going to swarm in Chinatown.

We arrived in Chinatown, and many people fled. The doors remained open as the train waited for police, but still none showed up.

The operator started yelling into the PA every 20 seconds or so: "Transit police please contact the operator. Transit police please contact the operator."

Still nothing.

After 5 minutes or so of waiting for police while the whooping man paced, the operator proceeded to Metro Center. Many passengers fled, and so did the whooping man.

No police ever came.

I don't advocate a police state on Metro, but my commute today took me about 40 minutes to go 5 stops. The reason: The operator was waiting for police that never came.

This man threatened passengers, scared the shit out of everyone and made several trains late.

But still, by the time I arrived at Dupont, no police had entered my train.

Other items:
Avoid the Yellow and Green lines Columbus Day weekend
Good luck Maryland (WaPo)
Interested in X1,X2 and X3 improvements?

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Anonymous said...

maybe they were busy eating chips in the station

Sophia said...

Wasn't there an article in the newspaper stating that Metro Police was going to patrolling on metro a lot more now?

Time to learn to drive and get a car.

Michael said...

I will note Metro had 4 cops stationed at Union Station this morning... of course thats four cops that will never be able to respond if something goes down in Glenmont or Ballston. I wonder what WMATA claims their police response time is... apparently 24 hours.

Erik said...

You would think that Metro would have a cop stationed at least at all the transfer stations at all times (Chinatown, LEnfant and Metro Center) Let alone the Transit Police station is in Chinatown!

Anonymous said...

Aah, that must have been the 'police situation at Gallery Place' that delayed my own train at either Union Station or Judiciary Square. Never saw any sort of Metro alert or mention of it in the Twit-o-sphere. Though it sounds like it really sucked, it's good to know what happened.

Anonymous said...

There ought to be one Transit Police officer stationed at each stop, with more at the major stations like Metro Center and L'enfant Plaza. Doesn't Union Station have federal police (like FBI or something) with machine guns?

Anyway, with police at each stop not only would they be able to respond very quickly to situations like this, but it'd be yet another deterrent to crime on the Metro. If they could also have the authority to beat rowdy teenagers senseless, then that wouldn't hurt either.

Anonymous said...

There are always one or two cops at the Ballston station watching the peeps go by during evening rush hour. The question I have is... where the BLEEP WAS everyone? Nobody responded to a "911 call" for assisatnce by a legit train operator!?? And they want to raise our fees. FOR WHAT? God help us if someone has a heart attack or actually pulls out a gun.

Anonymous said...

perhaps they were resting for their particpation in todays "Operation ALERTS" with AMTRAK police. There were at least 15 or 20 Metro transit cops at New Carrolton this morning... walking up and down the platform looking into the trains...

What a waste of money and time...

MATTHEW said...

I was just down the Union Station platform with him. He usually just mutters that stuff to himself the times that I've seen him.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I know where your cops were! They were all standing on the sidewalk corner near the Ballston Mall (Va.) for the Pres' speech to the kids. A massive amount of uniforms with guns standing idly by on a corner street looking bored.

Anonymous said...

Texting to 911? It appears those incessant Metro Police number anouncements have not had the desired brain washing effect to tatoo the 202 962 2121 number into your long term memory.
I wonder if the operator was saying to him/herself "I bet you bitches wished I could use a cell phone now"

busrider said...

did no one try to calm the guy down? did everyone seriously just cower? ugh.

Sean Robertson said...

busrider - would you try to call down a crazy person? That's a good way to get hit or worse. If you ride the bus regularly as your name implies, you've almost certainly encountered at least one of our local bus crazies. How did you respond then?

busrider said...

yeah. i do. and i'm far from brave or a fighter.
you just gotta talk calm to the crazy. and in my 20 years in dc, talking to crazies has never escalated. -gulp- yet.

and yes, happens a lot on the bus. and i'm not the only one that intervenes. if theres a crazy person on the bus, someone almost always says something.

i'm not trying to sound all on it and shit, but its strange to me that someone could be that crazed for so long and NO ONE say anything.

even if just a few dudes made eye contact with each other to know someones got their back....
its kinda sad, you know?
but i wasnt there so i dont know....

for the record i ride mainly the 90's and the x2. and trust me, plenty o'crazies on those routes.

Atiyah said...

I have emailed metro about more police officers on the platforms after I was at Fort Totten and man started to beat up the woman he was with and how customers had to pull the man off the woman. Not sure where Metro police are when we are riding the trains but I would like to see more on the platforms and possibly riding the trains especially since school started back.

J. Thomas said...

Busrider, unless you are professionally trained, confronting - even non-threateningly - a mentally unhinged person is dangerous to you and everyone around you. You *don't* know because you lack the training and education, how that person is going to respond. It's a fabulous way to get yourself stabbed, shot, hurt or someone taken hostage. Don't be an idiot.

Not everyone needs to be a hero, not every situation is a flight 93, and not every jackass with a machismo problem needs to leap into action at the slightest provocation. If the man was not physically threatening someone and did not have any visible weapons, then the right thing to do to keep the situation calm was to *not* respond to him, *not* to play off of or confirm his delusional ramblings, and to wait for police.

Unknown said...

I am not an expert, J. Thomas, but it certainly makes me "crazy" when I ask people a simple question like, "are you my enemy?" and they assume no response and avoiding eye contact is a superior to, "of course not, would you like to have a seat and talk with me for a while?"

For clarification, is that your professional advice?

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