The 59-year old Hughes told WKYC he was defending himself when he uppercut punched 25-year old passenger Shi’dea Lane. Hughes added that he and his union plan to appeal his firing.
"They speak of conduct unbecoming a driver. I was not a driver. I was a victim. When that individual put their hands on me, I stopped becoming a driver. I become a victim," Hughes said.
As we previously reported, the September 18th incident was sparked when Hughes and Lane got into an argument over the bus fee.
"The bus driver didn’t think I had any money to get on the bus and I was looking for it, trying to tell him that I have money to get on the bus. Can you just let me find it? And from there it just escalated," Lane told Fox 8 last month.
Lane can be seen on videotape hitting and spitting on Hughes. He responds by telling her "you going to jail now," before standing up and hitting her with an uppercut that knocked her to the floor. He then told her “if you want to act like a man, I’ll treat you like a man”
Lane says she couldn't believe how hard Hughes punched her.
“It’s amazing to see how a man would hit a woman that hard. Are you serious? You could have pulled me off the bus. You can’t really touch anyone, but for real? You really punched me?” said Lane. “It felt like I was on Mortal Kombat. It just hurted. It was almost like a ‘finish him!’ type of hit,”
The video of the incident went viral and became the talk of the nation.
RTA issued the following statement about the decision to fire Hughes:
RTA values its employees and expects employees to follow rules, regulations and policies. Each employee is advised of the rules as part of their employment.
There are certain actions by our employees that are so serious that the employee is subject to immediate discharge.
One of those actions is a use of force against a member of the public.
In the Artis Hughes situation, the customer was out of line and charges have been filed against her.
However, while customers may be challenging or difficult to handle, RTA employees are instructed to exercise restraint and to conduct themselves professionally at all times.
Mr. Hughes claims that his actions were in self-defense. The evidence does not support that claim.
We expect our employees to diffuse any potential situation. We do not believe that Mr. Hughes took the proper steps to diffuse this situation.
The proper procedure would have been to pull over and stop the bus, then call Transit Police for assistance.
Employees should take precautions in situations such as this one to protect the safety of other RTA customers and the public. Mr. Hughes did not take the proper precautions, nor did he follow procedure.
For the above reasons, Mr. Hughes has been terminated from RTA.
RTA, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the Fraternal Order of Police have established a joint Labor/Management Committee to discuss and implement strategies to enhance the safety of all employees.
RTA cited for the termination 'RTA Employee Handbook Dischargeable Offense #5' which says:
"Use of overt force, such as shoving, pushing, striking of any blows in any manner or fashion against another employee, supervisor, management personnel or such actions against members of the public while in the course and scope of employment or at any time while on company property. The only exception shall be where it is clearly established that the employee acted in self-defense."
Lane didn't get off scot-free. She has been charged with disorderly conduct.