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CATS to increase security, add de-escalation training after double shooting on bus

 Interim CATS chief executive Brent Cagle
Steve Harrison/WFAE
Interim CATS Chief Executive Brent Cagle.

The Charlotte Area Transit System said Wednesday it will double how much money it spends on security over the next two years and also plan new de-escalation training for drivers after a bus passenger and a driver shot each other last week.

In a news conference, interim CATS Chief Executive Brent Cagle gave a detailed account of the May 18 shooting on the route 56 bus near the outlet mall in Steele Creek.

He said a passenger, Omarri Sharif Tobias, told driver David Fullard to let him off the bus — even though there wasn’t a scheduled stop. The driver refused because that would have prohibited CATS policy.

Cagle said the two men began arguing.

“That argument lasted several minutes and escalated,” Cagle said. “It continued to escalate to the point that the passenger produced a firearm.”

Cagle said the driver stopped the bus and pulled his own gun. The two men fired at each other.

Both men are expected to survive. Tobias has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injuries, among other charges.

Cagle said it’s unclear if Fullard will be charged — but that the third-party company that employs CATS drivers and runs the city's bus system has fired him for violating a CATS policy that prohibits employees from carrying guns.

“Do I think the driver handled this appropriately? I understand everyone’s need to protect themselves,” Cagle said. “I also believe this incident may have been avoided had there been other actions ahead of this, ahead of the gunfire.”

The decision whether to terminate or discipline the driver was made by RATP Dev, a private company that manages CATS bus operations under a contract with the city. Cagle said CATS would not weigh in on what discipline the driver should receive, if any.

He said CATS will make de-escalation training recurring rather than just when drivers are hired.

Last week’s shooting was the second time in two years that an argument with a CATS driver ended in gunfire. In February 2022, CATS driver Ethan Rivera was shot and killed by a motorist after the two men yelled at each other in what police said was a road-rage incident uptown.

CATS currently spends $7 million a year on security. That’s increasing to $10.5 million next year, and to $14 million the year after that.

The transit system also said it’s replacing the current security contractor, Allied, with two new firms.

Cagle said he plans to have more security guards on buses, but it’s impossible to have one ride every route because it would cost too much money.

He said he isn’t aware of any transit system in the world that does that.

CATS said there is video of the incident that will be made public once the Transportation Security Administration releases the footage.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.