- (Photo: Heather Farrell)
UPDATE, 3:08 p.m.: Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel says Metro has identified which train was involved in the incident and is "following up with personnel involved. Inquiry still continues."
ORIGINAL: On Friday we reported on a Red Line incident from last week in which a teenager threw a jug of iced tea into an old man’s face, prompting a lot of confusion over whether a train will stop when there’s been an assault. We heard from one witness, Alex Mullineaux, who tended to the victim and tried, without success initially, to report the incident to Metro staff. Mullineaux wondered whether the emergency call boxes found on Metro trains were useful at all.
We just spoke with David Plihal, a graphic designer and Wheaton resident who was Mullineaux’s vigilante partner on the train, at first pursuing the teens and then trying to alert the conductor. Plihal says there were about ten kids getting rowdy on the train leading up to the icea tea toss.
“He just got whomped,” Plihal says of the old man, who’d been sleeping before he was hit.
After the toss, Mullineaux tried to hold the doors open to keep the train from rolling on. One of the boys had hung back to taunt the riders, flipping them the middle finger, and Mullineaux and Plihal wanted to detain him. But the doors closed and the train moved on.
Plihal was the one who ran to the end of the car to hit the emergency call box. “I said, ‘Stop this goddamn train,’” he says. Initially, the female operator said, “Can I help you?” But she never said anything after that, and she didn’t respond to his urgent report of an assault. Plihal says he hit the call button at least three times as the train moved on, trying to let the operator know what happened. But he was greeted with silence.
“There’s a reason for that button to be on that train,” Plihal says. “And she did not respond at all. After [I said] someone was being assaulted on this train, she just shut off her radio and kept on going. I pressed that button several times…. It was useless.”
Plihal says at one stop they spotted a cop on the platform and yelled to him for help. "He just threw his hands up in the air," Plihal says.
Today Plihal filed a formal report of the incident with Metro, including the number of the train, which he got from the station manager once he got off at Wheaton.
“I don’t wanna get a train operator in trouble, but someone is gonna get shot and that’s when they’ll perk their ears up,” he says.