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‘We’re in war,’ After stabbing, meth in face, Las Vegas bus drivers fear for safety

By David Charns,


This is a two-part series. The two videos above and below this line comprise both parts.

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A group of Las Vegas-area bus operators said they feel like soldiers in a battle they did not want to join amid an uptick in high-profile and violent incidents.

Sandra Adams, Stephanie Davis and Tamisha Davis are coach operators with the two companies contracted with the Regional Transportation Commission to provide bus service across Clark County.

“We’re in war and we’re drivers, and we shouldn’t be,” Tamisha Davis said.

“We literally move this city. We like what we do,” Stephanie Davis said. “What we shouldn’t be is assaulted every day to do it.”

The three women share a combined two decades of experience — each with stories covering every ride.
Sandra Adams, Stephanie Davis and Tamisha Davis are coach operators with the two companies contracted with the Regional Transportation Commission to provide bus service across Clark County. (KLAS)

“I get cursed at,” Adams, who is vice president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1637, said. “I get called all kinds of names.” The union comprises about 1,000 operators who work at either Keolis Transit or MV Transportation.

“What are some of the things you see on your buses?” 8 News Now Investigator David Charns asked the operators.

“We have people who try to harm other people on the bus,” Tamisha Davis said.

In February, a 30-year-old man died after his accused killer stabbed him more than 30 times on the bus. In late April, a man stabbed a bus supervisor in the chest, police said. The supervisor survived.

In January, a woman allegedly stole a bus, driving it away from a bus stop. In a similar incident in March, a man barricaded himself inside a bus, eventually biting part of a Las Vegas Metro police officer’s ear off, police said.

“I come into work and I’m praying, ‘Lord, please protect me while I’m out here,’” Stephanie Davis said. “I hope that I make it home back safely.”

Local police responded to more than 2,000 incidents – six responses per day – or one every four hours — on RTC buses last year, RTC Deputy CEO Francis Julien said.

“That’s a lot: 2,000. We got 12 months,” Stephanie Davis said.

In an emergency, bus drivers can push a panic button and alert operators, the women said.

“There’s a button there but a lot of them don’t work,” Adams said. “So really, it’s useless.”

RTC is piloting a panic button program, which allows drivers to call for help from a device in their pockets. A handful of drivers have the buttons as part of the pilot.
The cab of an RTC bus with the plastic driver’s shield. Bus operators told 8 News Now passengers have ripped it off and thrown it at them. (KLAS)

As the 8 News Now Investigators first reported, during the February stabbing, a bus driver activated his panic button and called for help. The incident begins on video the 8 News Now Investigators obtained at 4:50 p.m. The bus stops and its doors open at 4:54 p.m. A spokesperson for the bus’ operator, Keolis, said the driver had to maneuver from the far-left lane to the right-hand side while driving an alternative route.

In audio recordings also obtained by the 8 News Now Investigators, dispatchers did not receive a call from a Keolis bus operator until 4:53 p.m. – three minutes into the event. The driver exited the bus shortly before 4:55 p.m. No one is seen helping Dominique Lucas, 30, who crawled out of the bus and onto the sidewalk until 4:57 p.m. when a passerby applies a towel to Lucas’ chest. Metro police officers arrived at 4:58 p.m.

About 200 contracted security guards monitor buses across all shifts, RTC said. The guards can detain passengers if they witness a crime, a spokesperson said.

Earlier this month, Julien told the board overseeing RTC that it was adding 33 more security officers as part of an updated contract. He also told the board the number of rovers – officers who are mobile – will double to about 16.
Video shown to a Clark County grand jury shows Aaron Cole walking toward Dominique Lucas armed with a knife. Lucas is at the bus’s front door attempting to exit before he is stabbed 33 times, prosecutors say. (KLAS)

RTC officials said the roving officers’ response time averaged 11 minutes.

“That’s cute,” Stephanie Davis said. “I’ve seen a passenger tell the security guard, ‘You can’t do anything to do me. Call Metro.’”

Last year, security officers removed more than 118,000 passengers from buses or bus stops, data the 8 News Now Investigators obtained said. Nearly half of those removals — 50,535, were for loitering; nearly 40,000 removals were for sleeping.

“They respond to a lot of incidents, and they prevent a lot of incidents,” Julien said. “We never talk about the incidents that are prevented but that’s why, their primary goal is to prevent incidents from happening in the first place.”

“Are these buses safe?” Charns asked Julien.

“We provided 41 million rides last year,” Julien said. “When you look at the number of incidents versus the rides, buses are quite safe.”

As of May 2023, RTC counted three incidents involving weapons between passengers and one incident involving a passenger and an employee. This figure includes the February murder and April stabbing.

In 2021, a passenger stabbed another rider on Tamisha Davis’ bus, records said.

“Do not make any moves toward your waistband,” a Metro police officer tells Randy Black in body camera video the 8 News Now Investigators obtained.
Randy Black pleaded guilty to a charge of battery with substantial bodily harm, court records showed. (LVMPD/KLAS)

Tamisha Davis was driving Route 115 — which travels up and down Nellis Boulevard and Stephanie Street between northeast Las Vegas and Henderson — when Black began stabbing another man.

“I look in my rearview mirror, I see him running up to this man, stabbing him,” Tamisha Davis said. “I pulled my bus over. I pushed the panic button. No answer.”

“[The stabbing victim] stated when the bus came to a stop, [Black], unprovoked, stood up and produced a large kitchen knife and began to stab [him] repeatedly numerous times,” officers wrote in a report.

The victim told police he had never met Black before. Body camera video shows police rushing to find Black who got off the bus and was walking on Nellis Boulevard before police stopped him.
The kitchen knife involved in the stabbing on Tamisha Davis’ bus as seen in body camera video. (KLAS)

“They ended up catching him,” Tamisha Davis said. “They said that he had his knife shoved up in his pants. It was a butcher knife.”

“I have the knife it’s on his right hip — it’s a silver kitchen knife,” the officer detaining Black said over his radio. The knife, which was put into an evidence bag, was covered in blood. The victim survived.

In addition to probation, District Court Judge Crystal Eller ordered Black to pay nearly $700 in restitution.

The coach operators said not only do they feel like babysitters, but they are also piloting a multi-ton vehicle. An operator will begin at a $17 hourly rate, the union said.

“Not only that but you have to watch the traffic, too,” Stephanie Davis said. In 2021, a passenger blew suspected methamphetamine smoke in her face on West Flamingo Road.

“I’m thinking he thinks this pipe thing is his bus pass, well no, he pulls it out, under the window they talk about, it still has space. He blows something out of the pipe,” she said. Another driver came to her aide as she had difficulty breathing.

“She had to help me get off the bus and help to get some oxygen,” she said.

The report the 8 News Now Investigators obtained for that incident said Stephanie Davis pulled the bus over and called for help, but Metro police were “unable to locate the man.” A Metro spokesperson said RTC never provided surveillance video to them. When the 8 News Now Investigators asked the company for a copy, a spokesperson said it does not retain video from that far back.
The incident report for when a passenger blew suspected-methamphetamine smoke in operator Stephanie Davis’ face. (KLAS)

“No security was ever provided for three weeks straight. I went without security and then I kept refusing to drive,” Stephanie Davis said.

All three women said they are treated worse as females at the wheel of a public transportation vehicle.

“Us women get trashed,” Tamisha Davis said. “When I say, belligerent — belligerent.”

“A couple of weeks ago there was a guy on my bus, he wanted my number,” Stephanie Davis said. “I said, ‘I’m married sweetie.’ He said, ‘I don’t care I’ll kill you and your husband.’”

“I go to work with the mindset that I’m not getting into any altercations with anybody, I’m just going to drive,” Adams said. “If they don’t pay, they don’t pay. I’m not dealing with that. My life is worth more than $2.”

“Why continue to do the job?” Charns asked.

“I love meeting the people,” Tamisha Davis said. “Some of these people become your friends.”

“Should RTC and the bus companies be liable if something happens?” Charns asked.

“Definitely, yes,” the women replied.

RTC board members said state law prevents them from starting a transit police department and doing so would require legislative intervention. During a recent meeting, board members, including Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, said they understood drivers’ concerns but directed the transit police action to Carson City.

The three drivers said union members could take further action.

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