The Tinlinongtime parking enforcement officer tried twice to wave veteran MBTA bus driver Lataria Milton out of the left turn lane at a busy Kenmore Square intersection Thursday morning. But Milton defiantly returned the hand gesture and continued eating a breakfast sandwich inside the empty bus parked on Commonwealth Avenue, transportation authorities said.
The officer wrote a $75 ticket, and when she tried to place it on the windshield of the bus, Milton inexplicably hit the gas, authorities said. The bus lunged forward and struck the officer, who managed to get out of the way before the bus plowed into several vehicles waiting at a traffic light.
The occupants of the vehicles were not injured. The officer — a supervisor with more than 20 years experience, whom authorities declined to name — was rushed to Brigham and Women’s Hospital with injuries not believed to be life-threatening. She knew it could have been much worse.
“She told me in the hospital that if she hadn’t got out of the way, she would have been crushed,” said Thomas J. Tinlin, commissioner of the city’s Department of Transportation, relating his conversation with the officer, whom he described as a model employee and “one of our stars.”
Officials of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority declined to release details about Milton’s work history, citing authority policy. The 34-year-old mother of five from Dorchester passed a breath test, which is mandatory for transportation workers, but she was arrested on charges of assault and battery with a vehicle and operating to endanger. She was held on $2,040 cash bail and is expected to be arraigned Friday in Roxbury District Court.
The episode played out in the busy transportation hub around 8:15 a.m., as the officer, driving a marked Boston Transportation Department van, spotted Milton’s bus in the left-turn lane leading to Brookline Avenue, officials said.
The officer pulled alongside the bus and waved at Milton to move along. The driver waved back and stayed put. The officer waved a second time, again to no avail. So the officer walked to the back of the bus to write down the license number. As she was walking alongside the bus to get the street address, Milton allegedly said, “Get out of my way; I’m moving,” Tinlin said. The officer responded, “As soon as I’m done writing the ticket,” Tinlin said.
Milton drove around the officer’s parked van and into the street, stopping at a red light a few yards away, authorities said. The officer got back in her van and drove up to the bus, got out, and went to the windshield of the bus to attach the ticket. That is when Milton allegedly hit the gas, striking the officer, and clipping her van in the process.
Witnesses told police that after the bus hit the officer, it moved slowly forward and pushed the car in front of it, a Subaru, into the second car, a black BMW. The front end of the Subaru was damaged extensively; the BMW was damaged in the rear. The bus was not visibly damaged.
Milton has a three-page driving history that includes being found at fault in a March 2010 crash in Roxbury and being required in 2007 to complete the National Safety Council’s safety course for a chronic highway violator, according to Registry of Motor Vehicles records.
Milton’s right to drive was suspended in August 2006 for repeated violations, including operating an unregistered vehicle in 2004 and failing to stop that same year, both times in Dorchester, the records show. She was first ticketed in 2003 in South Boston, when she was driving a car without a valid inspection sticker, records show.
At the time of Thursday’s crash, Milton’s license was active but in nonrenewal status because of unpaid parking tickets, unpaid excise taxes, and an unpaid toll. After her arrest, her license to operate a car or bus was revoked by the Registry.
Several of Milton’s relatives said she had never been in trouble at work, and they said that she would never deliberately attempt to hurt someone.
“She’s a godly person and would never do anything to hurt anyone,’’ Lexi Milton, 17, the driver’s daughter, said, shaking her head.
Relatives said Milton devotes her time away from work to raising her family and church activities.
“I was basically raised by her, and she took care of me and her own children,” said Michaud Bates, 24, Lataria Milton’s cousin.
“It takes a special kind of person to be so caring, and that’s who she is,” he said. “I’ve never known her to lash out at anyone or hurt anyone.’’
Tinlin declined to specify the injuries the officer sustained, but did say she was wearing a neck brace when he visited her at the hospital.
“She’s doing OK, under the circumstances,’’ Tinlin said in a telephone interview. “She’s in some pain and is very upset. She feels as though the driver committed a deliberate act because she didn’t want to receive a parking ticket.”
“This supervisor is one of many front-line public servants who keep the city open and accessible,’’ Tinlin said. “When you are responsible for a multi-ton vehicle, the public expects that you would conduct yourself differently than how this driver did. Our paramount concern right now, as well as that of the mayor’s, is the well-being of our own.”
Correction: Because of a reporting error, the last name of Thomas J. Tinlin, commissioner of the Boston Department of Transportation, was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.