Vinh was placed on administrative leave earlier this month after two women filed a complaint against him alleging that he had wrongly ordered them out of Dupont Circle on a Saturday night without providing justification. The women said Vinh shoved them out of the fare gates, leaving bruises on their arms and torso.
“He had no reason to kick us out, we were completely decent and hadn’t disturbed, let alone spoken to any person the whole time,” wrote one of the women, 22-year-old Stevie Kitching, in her complaint.
On Thursday, Kitching and her friend Laurel Watkins, also 22, said they were grateful and relieved to learn that they don’t currently need to worry about having a repeat encounter with Vinh on patrol at a Metro station.
“Allowing him to continue working as an officer would set a dangerous precedent that violence in the police force is acceptable,” Watkins said. “Removing him from WMATA is a great step in making the DC Metro safer for everybody.”
Still, the women said, without further information about the circumstances Vinh’s departure from Metro, they worry that he may be re-hired in the future, or that he could go on to work at other police departments.
“I am very glad to hear that he is no longer with the transit police, however, I would like to know whether that was done of his own free will or if he was fired,” Kitching said. “If he was allowed to resign before the investigation came to a conclusion I don’t believe it would have the same effect on his future as an officer … He could be rehired by another department and allowed to continue assaulting women.”
Neither Vinh nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment.
Vinh was terminated by Metro in November 2013 after he was convicted of second-degree assault in Montgomery County for an incident involving his then-wife. The conviction was later overturned on appeal, and he was rehired by Metro in March 2014.
Previous to the altercation at Dupont Circle station, Vinh had already been under review by Metro officials for another incident that was captured on camera. In a video that went viral last month, Vinh arrested a teenager who allegedly refused to throw away a lollipop and a bag of chips that she had been carrying inside Columbia Heights Metro station.
In the video, Vinh tells the handcuffed high school student to sit down, then kicks her legs from under her, causing her to fall to the ground, to audible gasps from the crowds surrounding her.
“I do have a concern, obviously, when I saw the video,” Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld told reporters the day after the video was posted online. “I have asked for a review of the situation because of those concerns.”
On Thursday, Metro board chairman Jack Evans said he was pleased that Vinh was no longer working at Metro, and said it was evidence that the agency under General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld has strengthened its ability to weed out bad apples.
“He has taken actions in the past that have shown a lack of tolerance for employees who do not do what they’re supposed to do, and I think he will continue to do that. And I think that’s essential,” Evans said.
Criticisms of Vinh’s policing tactics go back to 2010, when he allegedly threw a woman to the ground at Gallery Place and laid on top of her while the bottom half of her body was exposed. The incident was caught on camera, the woman in the video sued Vinh and Metro. The case was settled out of court.
And in another videotaped arrest last June, Vinh is seen pushing a teenager to the ground and sitting on her back after she was caught eating a sandwich from Wendy’s on a train. The teen’s mother, Carlita Blocker, filed a complaint with Metro but the agency concluded that Vinh had done nothing wrong.
Vinh is in an ongoing legal battle with Metro to recover back pay, accrued seniority and benefits that he had not received during that time period. In the initial complaint in that case, Vinh’s attorney argued that Metro had discriminated against him on the basis of his race, his Vietnamese national origin, and his gender.
Because of his loss of seniority and back pay, the attorney added, Vinh “suffered monetary damages and additionally suffered anguish, anxiety, fear, helplessness, shock, humiliation, insult, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, and other personal damages.”