WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – A Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) bus driver, and member of UTU Local 1563, was murdered aboard his bus here Sunday morning, May 20, by a lone gunman, according to media reports.

Alan Thomas, 51, who began driving part-time for LACMTA in 2007, and became a full-time driver in 2010, was taken to an area hospital following the shooting and later pronounced dead. He reportedly had been shot in the upper torso.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Thomas was leaving a layover area “when the lone passenger allegedly shot him.” The alleged shooter reportedly exited the bus through a rear window and awaited county sheriff’s deputies, who placed him under arrest without a struggle. Two weapons – a shotgun and a handgun — reportedly were recovered at the scene.

The alleged shooter, Anthony Craig Chambers, 41, of Los Angeles, was booked on a “suspicion of murder” charge and is jailed in lieu of $1 million bond, according to the Los Angeles Times. If convicted, he could face the dealth penalty under California law.

A detective told the Los Angeles Times that there was no apparent relationship between the bus driver and the alleged shooter.

Fellow bus operator Victor George, also a member of Local 1563, said, “We always are exposed to mental, verbal and physical abuse by passengers.”

UTU General Chairperson James Williams (LACMTA, GO 875) said, “I’d like to see more security on buses, such as law enforcement officers riding buses and doing spot checks.” Williams stopped short of calling for protective enclosures for drivers, saying “more study and member involvement is necessary.”

Calling the shooting “tragic,” Williams said, “We are all deeply saddened. Our thoughts and prayers are with Brother Thomas and his family.”

A friend of Thomas told the Los Angeles Times, “He had no enemies. He loved everybody. He associated with everybody.”

LACMTA CEO Art Leahy arranged for grief counseling to Thomas’ “family of fellow bus operators.”

By Vic Baffoni,
Vice president, UTU Bus Dept.

Local UTU officers sacrifice much of their personal time, without compensation, to assist and serve their memberships, and they deserve recognition for their outstanding commitment.

That is what I intend to do in this month’s column.

Two such individuals deserving of recognition for their hard work and dedication are Lonnie Hookfin, president of Local 1496, Riverside, Calif., and David Ojeda, president of Local 1563, El Monte, Calif.

When the Teamsters initiated a representation drive on our members in Local 1496, who work for Laidlaw Transit in the Riverside area, Lonnie spent hours explaining to his membership the many benefits and advantages of UTU representation and solidarity.

David, a friend of Lonnie’s, volunteered to help and came to Riverside and gave to the members of Local 1496 the perspective of another local on how to work together and resolve internal issues.

This willingness and commitment to assist fellow officers and members, to help them identify, improve and advance their mutually beneficial goals for the betterment of all, is very important to labor-union members everywhere, and especially to those working for Laidlaw Transit.

It also forms the foundation of the UTU and its predecessor labor organizations; it is upon this foundation that the UTU has built 40 years of success.

If you are seeking a solution to a problem in your local, or are looking for information and advice on better serving your fellow workers, you always have brothers and sisters ready to assist.

Together, nothing can stop us.