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The Boston Globe

Metro

MBTA rider accused of assaulting bus driver

LYNN — It is an experience familiar to most bus riders: a chase to catch a departing bus, desperate bangs on the door, the despair of watching the vehicle disappear into the distance.

But when an Everett man was left by a Route 455 bus outside Wonderland station, he sought revenge, police say.

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Paul J. Kouroyen, 33, pleaded not guilty Friday in Lynn District Court to charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a shod foot, after prosecutors said he attacked the MBTA driver who had pulled out of Wonderland Station Thursday night and ­refused to stop to pick him up.

Bail was set at $1,000 cash, and ­Kouroyen was ordered to stay off the Route 455 bus. He was also ordered to avoid the driver and a witness who identified him to police.

The driver was identified in court papers and by the MBTA as Baulo ­Rodrigues, though the mailbox at his listed address read Paulo Rodrigues.

Susan Dolhun, assistant Essex district attorney, said Kouroyen attempted to board the Route 455 bus after it left Wonderland Station in Revere, chasing the bus and banging on the side door. Rodrigues did not open the door ­because the bus was en route, Dolhun said.

“There was no reason for Mr. ­Rodrigues to stop the bus in the first place in Revere when it wasn’t at a designated stop,” Dolhun said.

Kouroyen took the next bus to Lynn, the Route 439 bus, authorities say. In a bizarre twist, that bus arrived at Lynn’s Central Square 12 minutes before the one he originally attempted to board.

After arriving in Central Square, police said, Kouroyen found the bus that had left him in Revere and confronted the driver with angry words.

He then moved to the back of the bus, but when Rodrigues called MBTA officials to report the confrontation, police say Kouroyen returned to the front of the bus and began punching and kicking the driver.

“He [Rodrigues] tried to ­defend himself, but during the struggle Kouroyen kicked him in the left shin,” the Transit ­Police report said.

Kouroyen fled as Lynn ­police arrived, but they quickly located him nearby and arrested him after he was identified as the attacker, police said.

“This defendant violently assaulted the bus driver, apparently when there were people on the bus in a public area,” Dolhun said. “He obviously has some serious anger issues.”

Kouroyen’s lawyer said his client has had “very few” criminal convictions on his record, all for motor vehicle charges.

He is unemployed, attends Bunker Hill Community College, and lives with his grandmother in Everett, the lawyer said.

The 50-year-old driver was taken to Union Hospital in Lynn for treatment. He sustained bruises to his left and right cheek and lacerations on his left leg and on his fingers, Transit Police said.

Rodrigues, a 12-year T veteran, is recovering at home and is expected to return to work, MBTA acting General Manager Jonathan Davis said.

Hostility toward bus and train operators is a problem that has worried T officials for a while, Davis said Friday.

Last May, in a report to the MBTA board of directors, Davis said he had noticed an increase in assaults on MBTA operators, particularly people spitting on drivers attempting to collect fares, and called the behavior “outrageous and disgusting.”

At Davis’s direction, the ­MBTA launched a “thanks for being nice” campaign earlier this year to encourage passengers to treat T operators with respect.

Hundreds of cards were distributed with the message: “We appreciate you riding the T, but we also appreciate when you’re nice to our bus operators, too. They are doing all they can to ensure a safe, pleasant trip for all.”

At this point in 2011, 62 ­assaults on MBTA employees were reported, said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo. So far this year, 68 assaults have been reported.

“I understand that customers are experiencing stress and dealing with challenges in their life,” Davis said, “but assaulting an MBTA employee is never ­appropriate.”

For bus passengers waiting at Wonderland Station Friday afternoon, news that a bus driver was treated with dis­respect was not surprising.

Stefan Sandman, a 22-year-old student living in Chelsea, recalled an episode last week on the Route 117 bus, where a passenger, incensed that the driver missed his stop, made disparaging comments about her weight.

“I have seen a little more atti­tude lately towards bus drivers,” Sandman said.

Shana Otolo, 27, who takes the bus every day from Lynn to her job at a dentist’s office in Government Center, said she has witnessed abusive behavior, too.

“I see it all the time, yelling at bus drivers, taking advantage of the fact that they can’t do anything back,” said Otolo.

Friday morning, Otolo said, the driver of her bus talked with passengers about her worries after hearing about the ­assault in Lynn.

“Maybe I shouldn’t open the door after yesterday,” Otolo ­recalled the driver saying.

Martine Powers can be reached
at mpowers@globe.com.
Follow her on Twitter
@martinepowers
.
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