CLEVELAND -- The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has fired driver Artis Hughes following an altercation with a female passenger.
Hughes was charged with assault and placed on unpaid leave following the September 18 incident on board an RTA bus in Beachwood.
In making its decision, the RTA said in a written release, "There are certain actions by our employees that are so serious that the employee is subject to immediate discharge. One of those actions is a use of force against a member of the public."
Hughes told WKYC he and his union plan to appeal RTA's decision. "They speak of conduct unbecoming a driver," he said, moments after learning his job had been terminated.
"I was not a driver. I was a victim. When that individual put their hands on me, I stopped becoming a driver. I become a victim."
Hughes says his suspension and the publicity surrounding the now infamous uppercut he landed on an unruly female passenger, have made things difficult for him the last seven weeks.
"I'm still reeling," he revealed at the offices of his union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 268. "There's been days when I haven't even left the house, just stayed in bed for 2 or 3 days. Didn't eat. Didn't sleep. Just tossed and turned."
The confrontation between Hughes and the unruly female passenger was captured on cell phone video and went viral. The argument escalated with Hughes punching the woman.
The passenger, Shi Dea Lane has been charged with disorderly conduct.
In firing Hughes, the RTA statement acknowledged that the passenger was out of line. "However, while customers may be challenging or difficult to handle, RTA employees are instructed to exercise restraint and to conduct themselves professionally at all times. Mr. Hughes claims that his actions were in self-defense. The evidence does not support that claim. We expect our employees to diffuse any potential situation. We do not believe that Mr. Hughes took the proper steps to diffuse this situation."
The RTA's statement concludes: "Employees should take precautions in situations such as this one to protect the safety of other RTA customers and the public. Mr. Hughes did not take the proper precautions, nor did he follow procedure. For the above reasons, Mr. Hughes has been terminated from RTA."