TWU Packs Courtroom for Arraignment of Bus Attacker

President Utano giving interviews to the media after Andre Chandler's request for a bail reduction was denied by the judge.
President Utano giving interviews to the media after Andre Chandler's request for a bail reduction was denied by the judge.

OCTOBER 4, 2018 -- TWU Local 100 packed a Brooklyn courtroom for the arraignment of a man who sprayed a mace-like liquid at a B15 Bus Operator – and then released pepper spray on another B15 bus hours later. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Martin Murphy took notice of the large Local 100 contingent in his courtroom Thursday morning.

“We have a full audience here today, mostly from the Transport Workers Union,” Murphy noted. He then refused to lower Andrew Chandler’s $30,000 cash or bond bail.

Local 100 President Tony Utano then addressed reporters waiting in the hallway for comment. “I don’t have any sympathy for anybody that attacks a transit worker,” Utano said. “We come here to do a job and go home safe to our family. We don’t come here to do a job and go to the hospital.” Utano said Local 100 would press the NYPD to pay attention to buses and provide a police presence to serve as a deterrent. Local 100 also will continue to distribute its Most Wanted posters, he said. “If you assault a transit worker, we’re coming after you,” Utano said.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez summarized Chandler’s crimes in a press release: IB ImageOn August 23, 2018, at approximately 4 a.m., Chandler boarded a B15 bus without paying the fare. The Bus Operator allowed him to remain on the bus, and Chandler requested a stop near the corner of Rockaway and Hageman Aves. in Brownsville.

The Bus Operator observed construction in the way and advised Chandler that he would have to pull up a little further up the street. Chandler then allegedly pulled out a canister and sprayed the partition with a noxious substance, causing the Bus Operator to choke and suffer burning to his eyes.
A passenger who attempted to board the bus also started choking and tearing up. Chandler fled. The driver was treated at Brookdale Hospital.
Later that day, at about 4:30 p.m., Chandler allegedly boarded another B15 bus. At the corner of East 98thSt. and Blake Ave. in Brownsville, he allegedly pulled out a pepper spray canister and started spraying the bus, causing passengers to exit as they coughed and teared up. Chandler fled, and the driver pursued him while calling 911. The Bus Operator observed Chandler throw the canister in a garbage can before returning to tend to the passengers. A police officer later found a can of Counter Assault Bear Deterrent, a type ofpepper spray, in the garbage can.

A Brooklyn grand jury indicted Chandler on assault, reckless endangerment and other charges. He faces up to seven years if convicted of the top felony count, prosecutors said. "Transit workers provide invaluable services to our city and I am fully committed to protecting them,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in the press release.