In May, 46-year-old HART bus driver Thomas Dunn was stabbed to death by a passenger on his bus. Graphic surveillance camera footage shows the tragic stabbing, after which the suspect left the bus. 35-year-old Justin McGriff was arrested shortly after the incident, initially on charges of resisting arrest without violence. After officers gathered evidence in the stabbing, McGriff was charged with first-degree murder. Dunn died at the scene of his injuries.
One witness reported that he saw the assailant stab Dunn multiple times, as well as slashing his throat. In spite of his severe injuries, Dunn managed to pull the bus over safely.
Dunn was an Air Force veteran and former long-haul truck driver, who reportedly chose a busy route because he loved people.
“He loved people, and that’s one of our heaviest routes with the most people,” said Tisha Jones, a friend and fellow bus driver. “He was very thoughtful about the passengers he carried, he was thoughtful about the employees he worked with, and he loved his children. That’s all he would talk about, his children.”
Since Dunn’s death, coworkers and other bus drivers in the Tampa Bay area have called for improved safety standards for drivers and other transit workers. It was revealed that five months before his death, Dunn complained to the HART board about a separate incident that occurred on his bus, saying he feared for his safety.
“It seems to me admin is taking care of admin and not taking care of the folks at the wheel that actually make this company work,” he told board members at the time.
Dunn’s father, Mike Dunn, said he felt mad that his son had inadequate protection at work. “Mad because he knew something like that was going to happen and they did nothing, and it happened,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of egg on their face. I don’t know what the solution is but that route he had, I think, was particularly dangerous, and they should have a guard on that bus.”
The bus Dunn was killed on did not have a safety partition between the driver and passengers for protection. The day the State’s Attorney released photos of attack, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and the Service Employee International Union agreed to install safety barriers for all 210 PSTA buses.
There is a lesson in this awful tragedy for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, the operator of the multi-county public transit system, and that is: Safety should always come first. This senseless crime and loss could have been avoided had the adequate safety precautions been put in place to protect the employees of HART.
Now, the family of Mr. Dunn may have a substantial wrongful death claim against HART and the operators of the transit authority for negligent security for failing to provide and maintain basic safety standards to protect the lives of the bus operators. This is an area of law we are particularly proficient in.