TAMPA — A Hillsborough bus driver said a man threatened him with a knife at a bus terminal Monday afternoon, Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies said.
Deputies arrested James Henry, 40, on a charge of aggravated assault on a specified employee with a deadly weapon.
The safety of bus drivers has become a focal point in Tampa Bay and throughout Florida after two Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority drivers were violently attacked last year. One was killed and another hospitalized after riders attacked the two men while they were working.
The incident occurred in the bus terminal at the Netpark Tampa Bay business park, 5701 Hillsborough Ave. Deputies said Henry approached the driver in the terminal bathroom then pulled a pocket knife from his back right pocket and held it out at him.
The driver, who was not named, backed away and notified an armed security officer nearby. Henry attempted to run from the scene but deputies detained him. Henry, a homeless veteran, appeared to be intoxicated, deputies said.
Sheriff Chad Chronister said his office takes any violent threat seriously, even though the victim in this case was unharmed.
“The bus driver was on duty, serving the public during this incident,” Chronister said in a news release. “No person should be in fear of their life, especially while on the job.”
News of the incident was released Tuesday, the day Google honored drivers and their colleagues as part of a rotating “coronavirus helpers” series on its main search page: "To all public transportation workers, thank you.”
Transit agencies in both Hillsborough and Pinellas spent millions of dollars to install clear, plastic barriers separating drivers from riders following the death of driver Thomas Dunn last spring.
Hillsborough finished installing the barriers on all its buses late last year. Pinellas recently announced that its fleet was fully outfitted with the safety shields.
But the shields, which have received mixed reviews from agencies and transit experts nationwide, can only do so much. The Hillsborough driver who was threatened Monday encountered the man with the knife while in the bathroom at a bus terminal.
Hillsborough’s transit authority, which provides 13 million passenger trips a year, logged 235 incident reports involving bus drivers last year. Sixteen of those were physical attacks.
These included Dunn’s death and the November stabbing that hospitalized a driver. Other assaults included a passenger throwing a cup of soda at an operator and another punching a driver in the face. At least three drivers were spit on.