SAN FRANCISCO (Bay Area News Group) — The driver of an open-top sightseeing bus who was asked to make way for a motorist instead responded with racist abuse then got out of the coach and attacked the other driver, a lawsuit filed this week claims. Police arrested the bus driver on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs and possession of methamphetamine.
Carlo Flores Bolanos said in the suit filed Thursday that he was driving behind the tour bus on Divisadero Street in San Francisco on July 21 last year at about 1:30 p.m.
“The bus was being driven recklessly, changing lanes and driving in the middle of the road utilizing both lanes of traffic and not allowing other vehicles to pass,” alleged the suit by Bolanos, a man of Mexican descent living in San Francisco County.
Near Grove Street, the coach was blocking traffic, but Bolanos managed to pull up beside its front door and asked the driver to move into one lane so Bolanos could get by, the suit claimed.
That’s when the driver, 32-year-old John Martin, got out of his seat, stood by the door, and began hurling anti-Mexican slurs and telling Bolanos, “Go back to your country,” the suit filed in San Francisco County Superior Court alleged.
Then Martin got out of the bus, started punching and kicking Bolanos’ car, and tried to break the windshield, the suit claimed. Bolanos called 911, while Martin got back in the bus and tried to drive away but was blocked by traffic, the suit claimed. Martin got back off the bus, and while Bolanos was on the phone with 911, started punching Bolanos through the open car window, then reached in, grabbed Bolanos’ neck and began choking him, the suit alleged.
When Bolanos tried to roll the window up, Martin started pulling on the glass and punching it, the suit claimed. After passengers on the fully loaded bus and bystanders began yelling at Martin to leave Bolanos alone, Martin ran back into the coach and quickly drove forward, before reversing into Bolanos’ car then continuing to drive backward until he was again blocked by traffic, the suit alleged. Martin fled the bus on foot but was caught by police, the suit claimed.
A San Francisco Police Department spokesman said Martin was apprehended by San Francisco County Sheriff’s deputies near the site of the alleged attack, and was booked into jail on suspicion of driving without a license, driving under the influence of drugs, possession of methamphetamine, vandalism, battery, resisting arrest and felony hit and run, police said.
A San Francisco District Attorney’s office representative said the office received the Martin case, and has up to three years to make a charging decision.
Martin’s “Class B” bus-driver’s license had been suspended six months before the alleged attack, and he has at least seven criminal cases across several Eastern and Southern states, the suit claimed.
Martin could not be reached for comment. Bolanos is also suing the sightseeing-tour company, claiming it should have known Martin was unfit to drive a tour bus and was a danger to the public. The company has since changed hands, and the owner and management of the company at the time of the alleged incident could not be reached. A member of the family that currently owns the business said they were unaware of the alleged attack.
Bolanos claimed Martin assaulted him for being of Mexican descent and caused him to suffer permanent injury and “extreme emotional distress.” Bolanos is seeking unspecified damages.
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