LAKE WORTH - A Palm Tran bus driver says he was attacked by a passenger and now he's on administrative leave.
The driver says he's being punished for defending himself and he wants more protection for drivers.
Arnaldo Guanche has a scab on his forehead from what he says was an attack last Tuesday.
He was driving a Palm Tran bus when he stopped on Dixie Highway at Lucerne Avenue in Lake Worth.
He says Richard Fisher got off the bus, but hung around and then started confronting Guanche for no reason before hitting him.
"He hit me right here the shoulder," Guanche says pointing to his left shoulder.
The bus driver called dispatch for help, but says Fisher kept hitting him, even throwing a garbage bag at him.
"I told my dispatcher, I'm defending myself, that's it," Guanche remembers.
He says he followed Fisher off the bus and punched him twice.
"I didn't know what he was going to do, whether he was gonna get something from outside," Guanche explains.
After the incident, Guanche was placed on paid leave while Palm Tran investigates the case. But he doesn't think he did anything wrong.
"There is absolutely no protection, drivers are defenseless out there and their only protection is themselves," explains Dwight Mattingly, president of the Amalgated Transit Union Local 1557.
He says bus operators are told to defend themselves in training courses. He backs Guanche's decision.
Mattingly says the bus drivers are able to trespass someone from riding the bus for 90 days, if they cause a problem, but that's about the only action an operator can take.
Both Mattingly and Guanche want better protection for drivers. They understand there cannot be a cop on every bus, but they say more law enforcement officers patrolling stops and being visible could curb issues.
"Too many times we're verbally assaulted, we've been spit at, we've had stuff thrown at us," Guanche explains.
Palm Tran says this investigation is still open. There is no timetable on when it may close.
Fisher is charged with hitting Guanche. He is out of jail.
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