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Bus Driver Fired for Allegedly Punching 'McGruff'

By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 11, 2009; B08

A Metro bus driver accused of punching an off-duty police officer who was dressed as McGruff the Crime Dog has been fired, the transit agency said yesterday.

Shawn Brim, 36, a Metro driver since June 2003, was fired Friday after an internal investigation of the Feb. 28 incident, Metro spokeswoman Candace Smith said. She declined to discuss the inquiry but said the decision to fire Brim was based on a D.C. police report of the alleged punch and a Metro supervisor's review of what happened.

Brim, who was charged with misdemeanor assault, got out of his bus at Spring Road and 14th Street NW about 2:30 p.m. and slugged Officer Tyrone Hardy in the face, according to police. Hardy, who often dresses as the popular mascot to educate children about crime prevention, was wearing his McGruff costume head, which partly cushioned the blow. But police said he was slightly injured.

Smith said that when a Metro supervisor asked Brim why he had allegedly punched the droopy-eared mascot, Brim replied that he "did it to be funny."

Brim's mother, Joyce Brim, said in an e-mail that her son did not want to discuss the incident or his firing.

The alleged assault occurred in front of a group of young people, police said. They said Brim, who was driving the No. 52 route to L'Enfant Plaza, got back on the bus and pulled away after the incident but was stopped by police. He was issued a citation to appear in D.C. Superior Court on March 19.

Brim has a record of arrests for minor crimes in the District, but he was not prosecuted in any of the cases, court records show.

Smith said that several months ago, the transit agency began considering imposing more stringent hiring standards. She said the issue has taken on more urgency lately, after the McGruff incident and a shooting Sunday in which an off-duty D.C. police officer killed an off-duty Metro bus driver who allegedly tried to rob the officer.

Applicants are disqualified if they have one felony conviction in the previous three years or two in the past 10 years, she said, adding that Metro conducts background checks on all potential employees. She said applicants with multiple arrests and convictions for lesser crimes are much less likely to be hired than people with clean records.

Officials noted that Metro bus drivers, whose average pay is $24 an hour, are often crime victims. More than 70 drivers were assaulted by passengers last year.

Smith said Brim submitted to alcohol and drug testing, which is routine when a Metro employee who is responsible for the safety of passengers is involved in any unusual incident. Citing confidentiality rules, Smith declined to disclose the results of the tests.

Staff writers Lena H. Sun and Theola Labbé-DeBose contributed to this report.

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