Third violent attack in Metro system in 24 hours: A man armed with pliers robs fellow rider

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 10: Operator Jimi Pollard, right, from division 3k greets a fellow operator who stopped his bus at the stoplight and honked his horn in support as L.A. Metro bus operators protest outside of the Metro Headquarters in downtown Los Angeles on Friday, July 10, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA. L.A. Metro bus drivers are demanding hazard pay for working during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Metro bus operators in 2020 in downtown Los Angeles. The latest violent attack on a Metro bus happened Tuesday in Encino. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

In the latest violent attack on the county's mass transit system, a man riding a Metro bus stole a fellow passenger's cellphone on Tuesday after striking the victim with a pair of pliers in a bold daytime robbery, according to authorities.

Officers responded to reports of a stabbing on a Metro bus shortly after 2 p.m. at Balboa and Ventura boulevards in Encino, according to Officer Jeff Lee with the Los Angeles Police Department. But when officers arrived on the scene they learned that a man repeatedly struck another passenger in the chest with a pair of pliers while they were riding on the bus. Police arrested a man on suspicion of assault and battery while he was trying to walk away, according to Metro authorities.

The victim was evaluated by paramedics with the Los Angeles Fire Department, but did not need medical assistance.

"Metro thanks the LAPD for its quick action to apprehend the suspect in this case," a Metro spokesperson said.

The suspect was identified as 39-year-old Michael Lindsey, Lee said, and he was booked on robbery and is being held in lieu of $1.1 million bail. Lindsey had been issued a citation on Friday for giving a false identification to a police officer in the city of Azusa and in an unrelated incident pleaded no contest to theft of personal property in November, according to court records .

Read more: Metro bus hits cars and the Ritz-Carlton as hijacker fights driver for control

Tuesday's robbery follows a rise of violent incidents on the county mass transit system, including a pair of stabbings that occurred on or near the Metro system on Monday. But Metro officials say the rate of crime per passengers on the system is down.

On Monday evening, a fight broke out among three teenagers and a man on a Metro bus around 7 p.m., according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The bus driver stopped the bus on Los Feliz Road at South Central Avenue in Glendale, where the group got off and continued to fight in the street, according to authorities. The man and one of the teenagers were stabbed in the fight, according to authorities, who later arrested the two other teenagers.

Just a few hours later, a man attacked a woman on an elevator at the Vermont/Athens Metro Station alongside the 105 Freeway, according to authorities. The woman was treated at a hospital for a stab wound to the arm and released, authorities said.

Anyone with information about either incident can contact the Sheriff's Department at (323) 563-5000.

Although multiple crimes against Metro passengers have been in the news recently, Metro says fewer crimes are being reported per passenger. According to Metro, there were a little over five crimes reported per million boardings in March, which was about 28% lower than in February and 41% lower than in March 2023.

Read more: Person stabbed after argument spills out of L.A. Metro bus, police say

The total number of Metro bus and train boardings in March 2024 was 25.8 million.

While reported crimes are down, that is of little comfort to bus drivers who have been the victims of several recent attacks.

Earlier this month, hundreds of Metro bus riders staged a sick-out in protest of the rising number of assaults among their ranks carried out by passengers.

Unionized train and bus operators have criticized Metro for failing to respond forcefully enough `to violence on the system. Drivers have been the target of several recent attacks, including one in Willowbrook where a man stabbed a bus driver in April while passengers watched.

Last year, the agency logged 168 assaults against bus drivers, a slight increase from the previous year. The assaults included being spit on and stabbed.

A Metro spokesperson said the agency had taken several steps to increase security, including adding more security personnel on buses to deter assaults and creating barriers to protect drivers. Those barriers were approved last month and are set to be installed in buses over the coming year.

Read more: Metro rider died after fight involving pepper-spray, police say. Now, suspect is in custody

The agency is also “working on longer term plans, which include the addition of even more dedicated transit security bus riding teams,” agency spokesperson Dave Sotero said in an emailed statement at the time of the sick-out.

“Bus operators are the face of Metro to more than 80% of Metro riders,” Sotero said. “We understand their and their families’ fear in the face of the senseless assaults some have experienced primarily resulting from the twin crises of untreated mental illness and drug addiction. We share their frustration.”

Times staff writer Rachel Uranga contributed to this report.

Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.