Monday, March 11, 2013

The day I got punched in the face

I've commuted on Los Angeles' Metro train lines for some 15 years. During that time, I've seen several near-fights and some scary, ranting people on the train, but the only actual violence I've witnessed happened was when one young man got pummeled by two others in the aisle (he walked away, though shaken).

Then came March 6.

I was on my way home and transferring from the Red Line subway to the Blue Line, just like normal. It was about 5:30 p.m. and the underground Seventh Street Metro Center was abuzz with commuters.

As I headed up the stairs to the Blue Line, I vaguely noticed two men just ahead of me. The second man, who was wearing a black sweatshirt, was closely trailing the man ahead of him, and it appeared that they were together. There was nothing particular notable or unusual about that, so I only gave it a moment's thought.

As I ascended the stairs, in a hurry as always to reach my train home, I found the second man oddly taking the steps more sideways than upward and getting slightly in my way. So I shifted farther to the left and by taking the stairs two at a time, I moved ahead of the second man, but behind the first.

At the top of the stairs, commuters heading to the Blue Line must do a U-turn and then touch their "Tap Card" to a kiosk to register payment for the ride. As I made the turn, the second man suddenly rushed ahead of me and deliberately blocked my path to the kiosk. At this point, I thought was just dealing with a very rude person and said, "Excuse me!"

He turned around and looked at me he said nothing and punched me right between the eyes. It was stunning. I took a step back, checked to see if my glasses were broken (they weren't), and said "What the fuck was that all about?" He didn't answer.

(In retrospect, I find it interesting that I did not instinctively try to hit him back. That's probably a good thing; retaliation would have led nowhere good.)

At this point I got my first good look at him. He was black, maybe 35 to 45, perhaps 5-foot-9 or so, lean and compact, and with a slight growth of beard.

I stepped away to look for a police officer since Seventh Street Metro Center  is a major transit point, cops are often around. I looked back at my assailant, to make sure he wasn't coming after me; we locked eyes from 10 yards away and he pointed at me threateningly.

As I was looking for an officer, the other man the one I thought was with the guy who punched me came up to me. I didn't learn his name but I'm going to call him Luis just to make this story easier to follow.  Luis said he'd seen what happened, was as stunned as I was, and was definitely not with the other guy. Luis said he'd noticed the other guy following closely behind him, almost as if  the second guy was trying to "protect" Luis. Indeed, it looked as if Sweatshirt Guy had taken some offense when I got between him and the person he was "protecting."

Sure, that doesn't make sense but neither does punching a stranger in the face. Clearly, my attacker had a few glitches in his hard drive.

After a minute or two, I found two female sheriff's deputies and told them what happened. Luis pointed out that my assailant had gotten on a Blue Line train that, luckily, was still waiting at the platform. Looking through the windows of the train, I spotted my attacker and pointed him out to the deputies. They boarded the train, asked him to stand up, and handcuffed him.

As they walked away with him, I followed. Deputy Hernandez came back to talk to me, but at that moment, the attacker started trying to get away from her partner, so she rushed back to help. (They later told me that he had seen a girl he wanted to talk to and was trying to go her.)

They eventually took the attacker away.

What happened next? See Part 2.


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