DART riders call for more officers on trains, buses

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on February 8, 2012 at 7:32 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 8 at 8:02 PM

After three violent deaths at DART light rail stations in a span of less than four months, federal agents are offering to step in to help stop the crime on DART vehicles and platforms.

Both Transportation Security Agency agents and Dallas police officers offered their services, which could include putting more uniformed officers at stations and aboard trains.

The latest DART incident happened Tuesday in Richardson, when two passengers and one DART officer were shot before the shooter was shot and killed. One of the passengers died.

Shooting victim Russell Weinstein of Dallas talked to News 8 about a scene so chaotic, he thinks he was shot by the DART officer, who was aiming for the gunman.

“She just opened rapid fire at least five shots,  and I realized I was directly in line of fire," Weinstein said. "The first or second shot hit me in the shoulder. I knew I was shot. I just dropped to the ground."

That DART officer, identified as Nikisha Manderson, was also shot in the chaos. She has been released from the hospital.

Manderson and Weinstein are both lucky to be alive. A third shooting victim, bystander Eric Thomas Johnson, was killed.

The shooter also died. Police said he killed himself after fleeing to a nearby warehouse.

DART is saying it will consider the help being offered by the TSA and Dallas police, but that is as far as they would go. But with so many fatal incidents in such a short time span, many DART riders are understandably nervous.

Brenda Jones rides DART to work every day. She had her own scary experience recently when a group of kids boarded a train and began fighting with each other.

"I and another gentleman pressed the emergency button to tell them that there were people back here fighting, and no one ever came," she said. "I never saw any DART police."

Karen Kay was on her way home from work to Plano on the Red Line train Tuesday afternoon.  It was about to pull into the Arapaho Center station, but never made it because of the shooting.

Kay, like Jones, says more officers are needed on buses and trains. "They could put a DART policeman on each car. He can go back-and-forth on that. That's two cops per train," she said.

Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway called on DART to tighten security to make its system safer for customers.

"They are riding and they need to arrive safely," he said. "DART Police, they need to ride on those buses and trains. DART Police, cameras on the trains, cameras on DART buses. Where do we find the money? That's DART's concern. They need to figure it out."

DART says they are doing more by increasing police visibility after a fatal shooting at the downtown Pearl Station last month. The transit agency asked its uniformed officers to ride buses and trains more often, instead of traveling in patrol cars and on bicycles.

Plano City Manager Bruce Glasscock, a former police chief, said putting more officers on trains may not be the solution. "When they are willing to take the risk and engage a uniformed officer, I think that shows the mental state they're in," he said. "I'm not sure there's anything that's going to stop them."

DART officials say they want their officers to be seen. And now, they'll consider whether to increase that visibility with Dallas police and TSA officers.

"I'll continue to ride, but I ride in a constant state of fear," passenger Brenda Jones said.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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