A reader writes:
“On Saturday evening, at approximately 9:30, my girlfriend and I were coming back from a wonderful dinner at the Majestic Café in Old Towne. We boarded a yellow-line train at the King Street stop and proceeded to head back into the city. At Pentagon City a group of approximately 25 high school aged kids joined us in the second metro car. As the train traveled between the Pentagon City and Pentagon metro stops, the kids acted like normal teenagers, loud, flirtatious and somewhat obnoxious (hey, we were all like this once) but they were, most importantly, harmless. All that changed once the train left the platform at Pentagon.
As the train made its longer transfer over the river to L’Enfant a massive brawl broke out between the kids. Now, I’m not talking a little pushing, a couple punches and some scratching, what we witnessed was an all out, no holds barred street brawl in a metro car. Only with a street brawl, bystanders can escape. The fight broke loose around the center doors, where a group about 20 or so boys were kicking, punching, elbowing and screaming at each other. I’m not entirely sure how the fight started, as I was facing the front of the car with my back to the melee but once the commotion started I sat up in my seat and hovered over my girlfriend to protect her from any wayward punches. I think in the back of my mind I expected this to be short tussle, a couple pushes, a punch here and there and a lot of swearing. It became clear that the fight was a more serious matter when one lad was pulled from the throng by a few other boys, shoved into one of the inward facing seats next to the glass partitions at the center door, and was given a more thorough going over. The boy tried to protect his head with his arms as the other boys took turns beating him about the face and neck, until finally one boy hit him so hard that his head smacked the glass partition so hard that it cracked the glass. There was blood everywhere. At this point I still in my seat, protecting my girlfriend, the severity of the situation sank in. I was, needless to say, very concerned for our safety. At this moment I noticed that most of the other passengers not involved in the fight had fled the car though the forward emergency door. Evidently, one of the other passengers got on the emergency intercom to let the conductor know of the fight and then passed through the emergency door. Fearing a further escalation in violence, i.e. that someone might have had a gun, we made our escape to the other metro car.
The situation in the first metro car, the driver’s car, was not much better. While no one was fighting, at least one boy pulled a knife and started shouting that he was going to go back in the second metro car and “poke someone.” Thankfully, the boy was restrained by some of his cooler-headed friends and, at least to my knowledge, a bad situation did not get any worse. Luckily for us, by this time the train was pulling into L’Enfant and we along with many other passengers made our exit. I’m not sure how much longer the fight went on in the second metro car. On the platform we were not greeted by transit police, nor did the train operator off-load the train. Rather it continued on its normal route, as if nothing had happened. We went up to the station manager’s booth, and informed the staff that they needed to get transit police to meet the train at the next station. The reaction of the station staff was not very reassuring and I didn’t not get the impression that anything would be done. Having had enough excitement for one evening we left the station and took a cab the rest of the way home.
Now, I know from talking to other passengers who escaped the fight that the metro operator knew about the fight taking place in the second car, so why then was there no police presence on the platform; why then did the operator not off-load the train; why then did the train continue on its normal route? Shouldn’t the operator have radioed ahead that there was a fight on the train to have transit police standing by to deal with the situation? Now, I don’t blame metro for a fight breaking out on one of its trains, these things, regrettably happen, but the lack of response or any sense of urgency once informed, is troubling.”
I wonder what the appropriate response time is to get Metro Transit police to respond to an incident like this. I know they can’t be at every station so I image it could take up 15 minutes or so to get to some stations. This is an insanely frightening experience.