ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – The St. Louis County police are investigating an assault on a MetroLink train after a man reported three masked suspects punched him repeatedly in the face.
For the past eight years, Roger Jesse said he’s taken public transportation between his home in Fenton and UMSL, where he works for the College of Optometry. Jesse said Wednesday night, he was attacked when his Blue Line train stopped at the Maplewood Manchester platform.
"The train stopped at the station, the doors opened, and all of a sudden some fists came from behind and started punching me in the face," Jesse said.
Jesse said the suspects appeared to be juveniles and were wearing ski masks and hooded sweatshirts. The suspects ran off the train and out of sight.
"The scariest part was I didn't know what hit me. I didn't know if it was a gun, a knife, a fist," he said. "They weren't trying to rob me, they were trying just to inflict pain on an individual."
Jesse said he yelled for help but there were no security officers around. He called 9-1-1 and told the dispatcher he would get off the train at the Sunnen stop. When the train stopped at Sunnen, Jesse said he told the train operator what happened.
"The only thing I was told is they would contact Metro security and to stay on the platform and they would be there," said Jesse.
A spokesperson with Metro Transit said the train operator did contact Metro Public Safety, which then contacted St. Louis County police.
With no security officers in sight, Jesse said he was left standing on the platform, bruised and bloodied.
Metro Transit said the St. Louis County MetroLink Patrol Unit was fully staffed, but there were no county officers or Metro Transit security officers on that particular train or on the Maplewood or Sunnen platforms at the time of the assault.
After waiting on the platform for ten minutes, Jesse said he saw a Maplewood police vehicle parked down the street, so he walked towards it to get help.
"He said, unfortunately, he had no jurisdiction over MetroLink, and they would have to contact St. Louis County police," Jess said.
An ambulance arrived to check out Jesse's injuries but he was not hospitalized.
"They said I was lucky that it was only a fist, that it was nothing else, they've seen worse," he said.
Jesse said county MetroLink Patrol officers arrived about 45 minutes after his initial call to 9-1-1.
Jesse said he is committed to St. Louis and to its public transportation system, but greater efforts need to be taken to keep riders safe.
"Somebody needs to check every passenger that gets on the train," he said. "That needs to be done, and if turn styles can't be done immediately, then staffing needs to be done that there is someone there checking that every person is a paying, riding passenger with a purpose to get on the train."
Despite what happened Wednesday night, Jesse was back on the train Thursday to commute to and from work. He said he will not let a few bad people stop him from living his life.
Metro Transit released a statement saying, in part:
"We are checking to see if the incident was captured on the MetroLink cameras, and if there is any video, it will be turned over to the County Police for their investigation.
“Metro Transit is conducting its own investigation into the incident to see if any security adjustments need to be made at this time.
“Over the last year, we have been working with our three law enforcement partners to increase the presence of security on the system by focusing on targeted onboard patrols. This has led to increased MetroLink and MetroBus checks, increased fare enforcement and an overall increased presence of personnel where they need to be, on the system with our passengers. This strategy aligns with what was highlighted in the recent MetroLink Security Assessment. One of the recommendations from the independent assessment contractor was a new deployment strategy of our existing security resources. However, we did not wait for the assessment to be completed to begin making changes to our approach, and we have already implemented many of their recommendations. While a lot of progress has been made, we know there is more to do.
“We are working hard to create a safe and comfortable transit system by coordinating the deployment of visible security staff. You can read about the security recommendations that have already been implemented, are in progress and are under review at metrostlouis.org. Look for MetroLink Security Assessment on the home page."
St. Louis County police described the first suspect as an African-American juvenile with a thin build, wearing a dark hoodie and black ski mask covering the mouth and nose. The second suspect, also described as an African-American juvenile with a thin build, was wearing a dark hoodie and a bright, multi-colored ski mask. Investigators said a possible third subject was involved, but they did not have a description.