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Beating on Metrolink platform prompts discussion about security lapses

ST. LOUIS – A brutal beating on a Metrolink platform has St. Louis’s Public Safety Director calling for a swift change in the way Metro handles its security staffing. A Metro spokeswoman is calling on police to do more to help.

There were no security guards present to stop the attack or render first aid to the victim.

The attack occurred just after 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 8 at the Grand Metrolink Station in St. Louis. There had been a guard working the platform, but the guard left for a dinner break shortly before the attack.

Surveillance video shows Dominique Hightower, 27, punching a 66-year-old man, knocking him to the platform deck before kicking him in the face and body, leaving the victim unconscious, police said.

“It is inexcusable that a security officer hired by Metro would leave his post uncovered and something as tragic as this can occur,” said St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards.

Fox2/News 11 has learned police have recently alerted Metro that at least five of the 37 Metrolink stations are routinely left with no security presence.

“Every now and then there’s security on the Metrolink. Every now and then there’s a police officer on the Metrolink,” said Angela Barnes, a Metrolink rider. “But I think there should be more.”

Metro has 47 security armed security officers on staff and 140 more contracted. That’s not enough to cover every platform at every train station, plus Metro’s 400 buses and cover dinner breaks, a Metro spokeswoman said.

“Every blue moon you’ll see somebody,” said rider Edward Johnson.

“And it’s getting worse on Metro. It’s not getting better. It’s getting worse,” Barnes said.

Metro is calling on St. Louis City Police and St. Louis County Police to do more, adding that the Illinois-Missouri Interstate Compact governing the transit system requires that police provide security. Metro officials simply choose to supplement it to increase passenger safety, the spokeswoman said.

At present, St. Louis County police have 44 officers assigned to Metrolink. St. Louis City has eight officers assigned, Edwards said.

Edwards said the presence of a security guard likely would have prevented the attack.
Hightower, now jailed for assault, is homeless and may have a mental condition, authorities said.

Hightower is well-known to Metrolink security guards, with 37 active warrants for mostly minor offenses like panhandling near Metrolink stations, Edwards said. If Metro doesn’t require guards to arrange backup before taking dinner breaks, that’s got to change.

“If you have been paid and you have been contracted to provide security on a platform, it is my expectation that you will be there irrespective of where the police are in the City of St. Louis,” Edwards said.

After the attack, Hightower sat down and waited for police, he said. The victim remains hospitalized and just came out of an induced coma.