Metro Transit to beef up security, expecting ridership to increase as post-pandemic commuters return

Two men were charged Thursday with third-degree assault after beating a man on the Green Line train for picking up a dropped $10 bill, according to the criminal complaint.

The charges came as the Metro Transit recently announced it will be beefing up its security staff now that post-pandemic workers are returning to the office.

“To build our team, we are embarking on a significant recruitment and hiring effort that will help our department proactively address safety concerns and create the kind of environment riders and frontline staff deserve,” said Metro Transit Police Chief Eddie Frizell.

The 24-hour licensed police department that responds to all crimes occurring on Metro Transit property — buses, light rail, commuter trains and platforms — serves eight counties and 85 cities.

Ridership overall took a hit during the pandemic and has returned to just under half the level it was at before COVID-19. But Metro Transit is anticipating that number to rise and is responding with a plan to meet demand. Routes and services will begin returning to pre-pandemic activity Aug. 21.

Frizell said the service will begin building a team of up to 70 part-time community service officers that will validate fares, educate riders and assist police officers. It also will hire 10 additional officers and assemble a staff of 11 officers and civilians that will monitor surveillance cameras in real time to assist on-the-ground patrols.

The Green Line assault happened May 5.

According to the criminal complaint, Mohzes Maylak Thomas, 22, of St. Paul and Dashon James Johnson, 26, of Minneapolis, were riding the eastbound train from Snelling Avenue and playing a dice game on the floor.

Video surveillance showed the two gambling with a stack of bills. Just before another entered the train, the men scooped up the dice and money, leaving a $10 bill on the floor.

The third man walked through, saw the bill and picked it up and sat down, the complaint states.

Thomas approached the man and demanded the money back. The man said he found it on the floor and did not know who it belonged to. He gave the money back.

Thomas then punched the man in the face, according to the complaint. When the man resisted, Johnson approached from behind and also punched him in the face, the complaint states.

Authorities said the man was transported to Regions Hospital with several facial fractures.

Thomas, who has a drug conviction on his record, and Johnson, who has burglary and theft charges on his record, were recognized by Metro Transit police. Johnson previously had been escorted off the train multiple times.

Video surveillance footage shows the two men bragging, laughing and high-fiving each other after injuring the man, the complaint states.

No attorneys were listed for either man.

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