(Update: Adding bus security videos)
Passenger accused of threatening with knife, spitting on driver
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel announced Thursday he's filing charges against a Cascades East Transit driver who allegedly used a "chokehold" to pull a passenger off a bus a week ago for wearing no shoes -- only socks -- and against the passenger as well, for spitting on the driver during an ensuing argument.
Hummel also released video footage from two on-bus cameras of the encounter allegedly involving the driver, Michael Brinster, who was terminated Thursday by his employer, Paratransit Services.
"Get off the bus!" the driver can be heard yelling. "Those are not shoes!"
Soon, he is heard saying to the seated rider, "I'm going to drop you, now - I will!" before removing him from the bus.
Cascades East Transit, operated by the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, contracts with another firm, Paratransit Services of Bremerton, Wash., who employs its drivers. (We have their statement at the end of this article.)
Here's Hummel's full statement, as prepared for delivery at a Thursday afternoon news conference:
"On August 20, 2020, Michael Lee Brinster, a 44-year-old bus driver employed by Para-Transit Services as an operator of Cascades East Transit buses, violently choked a passenger, causing him to briefly lose consciousness. The passenger was 25-year-old Bend resident Dorian Lee Allstot.
"Brinster choked Allstot to unconsciousness because Brinster was wearing socks on the bus instead of shoes, and he did not get off the bus when Brinster told him to. After choking Allstot to unconsciousness, Brinster put Allstot on the sidewalk outside the bus and did not call for medical assistance for him. Fortunately, Allstot quickly regained consciousness.
"A few minutes after regaining consciousness, Allstot approached Brinster who was back on the bus, challenged him to a fight, pulled out his knife when Brinster stepped toward him, and moments later, spat in Brinster’s face.
"Police were called to the scene and interviewed Brinster and Allstot. They learned Brinster was on his route when he first came upon Allstot at the Hawthorne Bus Station. Brinster told Allstot he couldn’t ride the bus because the rule was he needed to have shoes on to ride the bus.
"Brinster went on his route and when he returned to the Hawthorne Bus Station Allstot then had socks on and entered the bus. There were no other witnesses who were willing to identify themselves and to provide statements to the police. The officers on scene attempted to view the video, however it was not immediately available.
"Police arrested Allstot for unlawful use of a weapon, menacing and (aggravated) harassment.
"Allstot was arrested because Brinster told the police that Allstot threatened him with a knife before he removed him from the bus. Brinster was not arrested by the police.
"When Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel reviewed the case the following morning, he withheld filing charges, and directed that Allstot be released from jail until further investigation could be completed.
"The Police continued the ongoing investigation by obtaining video evidence from the bus, and the video surveillance from the Hawthorne Bus Station. As soon as it was made available to the Bend Police, the video evidence was brought forward to the District Attorney’s Office for further analysis.
"After receiving and viewing the videos, Hummel made his charging decision. Hummel charged Brinster with Assault in the Fourth Degree and Strangulation. Hummel charged Allstot with Harassment for spitting on Brinster, and Menacing for the incident after he was removed from the bus.
"Brinster and Allstot are presumed innocent of these charges, and in fact are innocent, unless and until the State proves their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
"Brinster’s first court appearance is for an arraignment on September 29, 2020 at 1:15. Allstot’s first court appearance is for an arraignment on September 30, 2020 at 1:15."
During the news conference, Hummel said there was no evidence the crime was motivated by race.
He told reporters it also did not appear that Allstot suffered from mental illness, but police do believe intoxication may have played a role in the incident.
Hummel also said he was grateful this did not end as a homicide, stating that the chokehold is extremely dangerous and should not be administered by anyone.
Along with the news release, Hummel issued this statement:
“The actions of this bus driver were shocking and criminal. He approached a passenger in an aggressive, disrespectful and violent manner: all because the passenger was wearing socks but no shoes.
"The passenger was sitting in a seat and lawfully carrying a knife on his hip. With the driver looming over him, screaming at him to “get off my ******* bus” and yelling at him that he was going to “drop him,” the passenger allegedly gestured to his knife.
"At this point, the driver violently yanked him into a chokehold, and held this hold as he dragged him off the bus, causing him to briefly lose consciousness.
"There is no place in society for conduct like this. The fact this happened on a transit bus that regularly serves many of our most vulnerable residents is disheartening.
"The bus driver committed a violent assault against the passenger, but I will not tolerate vigilante justice in Deschutes County. I understand the passenger’s anger at the bus driver, but this justified anger is not a legal excuse for later inviting the driver to fight, pulling out a knife, and spitting on him.
"If you commit serious crimes in this community, I’ll charge you, regardless of whether you’re a white bus driver or a Black bus passenger who is houseless.”
Cascades East Transit, operated by the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, issued this statement Thursday afternoon:
"We were alarmed to learn of the incident on August 20th. The safety of the riders on the Cascades East Transit (CET) system and those who provide these services is our number one priority.
"We are shocked and saddened by the events which occurred between the driver and the passenger. The driver involved is an employee of Paratransit Services, of Bremerton, WA, which is the contract service provider for CET’s Bend Fixed Route service.
"The conduct of the driver does not meet the professionalism or customer service expectations of COIC/CET. We have confirmed that this driver has been terminated, which CET fully supports.
"The team of drivers and staff that provide transit services in our region take great pride in their work; the behavior of this individual is deeply upsetting and not a reflection of the service the drivers provide each and every day.
"COIC/CET is reviewing our training materials, systems, and policies to ensure that our procedures in conflict identification and resolution are clear and adhered to at all times. In addition, we are taking immediate action with our contract service provider to ensure that this type of behavior does not happen again."
COIC Executive Director Tammy Baney also responded to some NewsChannel 21 questions about the incident.
"COIC/CET does not have a policy that you must wear shoes, it is actually against ADA requirements to do so," she said.
Baney told NewsChannel 21, " If you have someone on the bus that you feel is unsafe to you or others, you are to immediately call dispatch or reach out to 911, preferably dispatch.
"If an incident were to occur where an individual boarded the bus and did not have shoes on, or drivers have been trained to speak with that person. First of all, no shoes would not be an incident."
Here's a statement provided to NewsChannel 21 by Christie Scheffer, executive vice president/chief operating officer of Paratransit Services:
"Paratransit Services is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) transportation services company based in Bremerton, Washington. We were established in 1980 and have been providing transportation services in partnership with transit agencies, social services organizations, counties, state government, and other transportation providers to deliver a broad range of transit services.
"Our Mission is "to provide quality coordinated transportation and other community-based programs that meet the needs of the people we are entrusted to serve." We have taken this mission very seriously throughout our 40 years of service.
"We are in full agreement with the sentiments expressed in the statement released by COIC today. The judgment - and actions - depicted on the video are reprehensible. Please know this is not reflective of our employees who care about the well-being and safety of our riders. The safety of the riders, our employees and the communities we serve is our number one priority.
"The conduct of the driver is not reflective of our standards for quality, safety and professional service to the clients. In fairness to the driver, as part of our internal investigation, we carefully reviewed camera's video, and our decision was clear. This driver violated our company's policies and procedures and has been terminated.
"As part of the hiring process, background checks are performed on all employees, including all drivers, by an independent agency. No felonies or crimes were reported on the background search that was forwarded to us regarding Mr. Brinster," Scheffer concluded.
"We are reviewing with the independent agency why the report they provided did not reflect any criminal charges or convictions," she added.
Scheffer told NewsChannel 21 Brinster was hired as a CET driver in March of 2018.