EAST NEW YORK, Brooklyn (WABC) -- An irate passenger opened fire at an MTA bus stop in Brooklyn after allegedly refusing to pay the fare Tuesday morning.
The man was ejected off an SBS B82 bus for allegedly refusing to pay the fare near the intersection of Flatlands and Louisiana Avenues in East New York.
Members of the MTA's Eagle Team were walking the rider to a fare machine at the bus stop when he allegedly became enraged, turned, and opened fire at the MTA workers.
One of the MTA employees was grazed in the leg, according to officials.
"There is somebody who had a MetroCard on him, who for some reason didn't want to pay the fare, they did their job, they asked him to get off the bus, and lo and behold, he produced a .45 and took shots at our employees," said Janno Lieber, MTA chairman, and CEO. "I can't put up with that. The MTA won't put up with that and we are working closely with the NYPD."
The gunman described only as a man with a backpack, fled north on Louisiana Avenue.
"We have camera footage that is helping the NYPD identify this suspect, not just from the bus that the guy had just been ejected from, but from another bus that was coming by," Lieber said. "The cameras are working, the NYPD is going to get the guy."
Resident Maurice Foster said he sympathizes with those struggling, but that it's unfair when he pays and sees countless others refuse.
"Lately it's been kinda crazy with the buses and the bus fares and a lot of people riding the buses for free," Foster said. "And I guess ever since the pandemic people were getting on the bus and not paying."
MTA statistics meanwhile show overall bus fare evasion has been on the rise with almost 40% of riders not paying.
Lieber said fare evasion crackdowns have helped get guns off the system.
"In the last week or two, there have been like three to five separate incidents where fare evasion enforcement by the NYPD has led to collars for carrying a loaded gun," Lieber said. "This is an important function. I'm proud of the fact that we are trying to do it in the non-armed fare enforcement agent approach, which is one that some people have advocated. It's certainly a new way to do fare evasion but if people are going to take shots at our employees, we are just not going to put up with it."
But riders still worry if it's enough to keep things from escalating out of control.
"I mean what's gonna happen when the fares go even higher," one rider asked.
Police are continuing to search for the gunman.
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