A Palm Tran bus driver was fired last week for punching an unruly passenger in May, according to a document provided by the Palm Beach County agency.
Palm Tran officials notified Terrence Barber, 45, of his dismissal in a letter dated Aug. 6. Barber reportedly punched a passenger May 13 on the 5000 block of North Federal Highway in Boca Raton, near Yamato Road.
City police determined that the passenger was the primary aggressor and closed the investigation when Barber declined to pursue charges.
Barber told city police he was defending himself after the passenger uttered a racial slur and spat on him. The man denied either spitting on Barber or calling him names.
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The situation reportedly began with a bus-fare dispute.
According to the Palm Tran letter, the passenger, a 54-year-old Fort Lauderdale man, was intoxicated and made threatening and derogatory comments toward Barber. However, company officials determined that Barber escalated the situation by failing to contact a supervisor, refusing to let the passenger off at his intended stop and physically confronting the man.
Barber also failed to render aid after his punch left the passenger unconscious for several minutes, Palm Tran officials said. The letter described Barber’s actions as “reprehensible” and “intolerable.”
Barber had worked for Palm Tran for about five years. Records show has faced disciplinary reviews in the past for unsafe operation a vehicle, failing to contact a supervisor and failing to report to work on time.
Barber said Tuesday that he has hired an attorney to review his dismissal. He declined to speak further about the matter. Multiple calls to the union that represents Palm Tran drivers were not returned.
A Palm Tran spokesman said he could not speak specifically about Barber’s situation, but said the company trains drivers on how to handle hostile situations.
“Palm Tran is committed to maintaining a safe transit system,” spokesman Joe Harrington said in a prepared statement. “During the past year, there have been two instances out of 9 million boardings in which customers touched bus operators — and both times the operators were not injured.”