August 4th, 2009 5:33 pm | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

TriMet Sued After Attack For Allegedly Lax Security

Tags: TriMet, MAX

A woman who was attacked by teenagers on the MAX last year is suing TriMet for allegedly failing to provide adequate security on public transport.

Staci Lynn Smith, the woman who filed the lawsuit, was one of the victims in a highly publicized attack June 9, 2008, on the MAX Yellow Line along North Interstate Avenue. Police implicated five teenagers in the racially charged incident.

According to the lawsuit filed July 30 in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Smith was sitting across the aisle from Tarava Graham, who saw a group of teenage African-American boys and girls writing on the seats with a pen. The suit says Graham tried to stop them, but the teens continued the vandalism while shouting insults at Graham, who is white.

The teens also began harassing Smith, who is also white, and other passengers on the train, the lawsuit says. Two of the boys tried to take a camera from a woman but weren't successful, the lawsuit says. One girl threatened Smith, and when Smith protested, the girl hit Smith in the face and knocked her to the ground, according to the lawsuit.

One of the boys then hit Smith in the face and body, the lawsuit says. A boy also stole Smith's purse, according to the lawsuit. The suit says Smith was kicked in the back by boys and girls who shouted racial insults at her and continued to make threats. Smith tried to retrieve her purse and was hit in the temple by "a thrown object," the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit, when Smith tried to call 911 she was attacked again by two girls, which caused her to drop her phone. She then was hit with a can "at least twice," the lawsuit says.

The suit says the MAX driver was aware of the attack and contacted the police. Smith continued to hit an emergency bell but was only told by the driver to get off the train, the lawsuit says.

And the lawsuit alleges the driver never informed the assailants and other passengers over the intercom that police were on their way, allowing the teens to continue their attack.

When the incident ended, the lawsuit says TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch explained the agency's policy of not announcing police are on the way by saying it doesn't want to alert perpetrators that police are coming.

"Do you want people to run away and then police can't arrest them?" the lawsuit quotes Fetsch as saying.

Five days after the attack, the lawsuit says, TriMet said it would immediately change its policy and alert passengers when police had been called.

According to the lawsuit, TriMet was aware of frequent violent attacks on its trains, but the agency "provided little or no transit officers to protect passengers" and had ignored repeated requests by police for additional security.

Smith suffered a long list of physical injuries from the attack as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the lawsuit. The suit, filed by Portland lawyer Victor Calzaretta, seeks $56,000 for Smith's lost wages and medical bills plus $1 million for pain and suffering.

Fetsch declined to comment on behalf of TriMet or herself because the matter is under litigation.
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