NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- A man is facing several charges after he was captured on video cursing at and using racial slurs towards a New Jersey Transit conductor before assaulting him.
Thomas Vitulano, 30, is facing two counts of aggravated assault, Interference with transportation, and Disorderly conduct.
He apparently became upset onboard an NJ Transit train Monday in Allendale when a conductor asked him to put a face mask on, which is required as part of regulations put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kore James was sitting on the train and couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"The guy was screaming at the transit worker calling him all kinds of racial slurs, saying, you know, 'when we get off this train there's going to be a problem,'" James said.
Vitulano's mother said the incident is being taken out of context.
"You know, this whole thing about black and white and this and that, my son talks that because he lives down in Weehawken. We are not biased against anybody," Vitulano's mother said. "Nothing was mentioned about my son's serious mental illness and he was not on his medication, but yet everything else to incriminate my son is being put online."
Vitulano allegedly started hitting the conductor and that's when James said he moved in to take down the irate passenger.
"And I would hope that if that was my daughter or one of my sons or my mother or something, someone would have done something. He just- the guy needed help," James said.
The conductor was treated and released from the hospital.
New Jersey Transit released the following statement:
NJ TRANSIT is extremely disturbed by the reprehensible display of racially-charged hate speech directed at one of our train crew members in this video. This type of behavior will not be tolerated under any circumstances on the NJ TRANSIT system, and this individual should be banned from riding the system. At NJ TRANSIT, nothing is more important than the safety and security of our employees and customers, and we have a zero-tolerance policy with regard to any form of discrimination or harassment. We want the public to know that incidents of this nature, including all allegations of our employees being assaulted, are taken very seriously. Individuals who contemplate doing harm to our employees will be apprehended and aggressively prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
State Law protects conductors and bus operators and any assault upon them carries a prison term of up to 5 years and fines of up to $15,000.
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