Video of VTA driver fired for racist comment released

Victim says he is still weighing legal options.

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The onboard video from a Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) bus shows the driver telling Kevin Brooks, a barber who commutes to the Island from New Bedford, he didn’t pick him up because the bus was full. He then follows that up adding that it was because Brooks is black.

The July 11 incident took place in Oak Bluffs after the VTA driver, whose name has been withheld by the VTA, did not stop to pick up Brooks near Oakdale Drive in Edgartown.

The Times received edited videos with different angles from the bus and a written timeline of the incident from the VTA through a public records request. The VTA blurred the videos to protect the identities of other bus passengers, as well as the bus driver, who has since been fired.

The timeline states that the driver of the Route 13 bus refused a passenger on Church Street in Edgartown when his bus had 46 passengers aboard. The bus then stopped at Rockland Trust on 257 Upper Main St., letting off two passengers and picking up three, totallng 47 passengers aboard the bus. The driver left one passenger behind at Rockland Trust, saying the bus was full.

The timeline then states the driver did not stop for a man, later identified by the VTA as Brooks, near Oakdale Drive at The Triangle in Edgartown.

In the video, Brooks can be seen running across the road to attempt to flag the bus down. Before Brooks crosses the road, the driver can be heard saying, “I don’t have any room, sorry,” in the video.

According to the timeline, the driver then let off a total of 8 passengers near Little Bridge and Waban/Alley Park before stopping at the Steamship Authority (SSA) bus stop in Oak Bluffs, where the incident with Brooks occurred.

At the SSA bus stop, Brooks can be seen and heard asking the driver, “Is there a reason you didn’t stop for me at the Triangle?”

“I don’t know,” the driver responds.

“There’s no reason?” Brooks asks.

“No, I was full. Looks are deceiving,” the driver replies, before saying, “Well, it’s because you’re black.”

Brooks and the driver then argue before the driver asks several people on the bus if they had been on since Edgartown. He can be heard asking them if the bus is full, to which some passengers replied yes.

“If the bus doesn’t stop for you it’s because the bus is full,” the driver adds after making the comment to Brooks.

Brooks and the driver exchange a few more words that are mostly inaudible before Brooks heads to the ferry to head home.

“The driver was terminated immediately following the incident, and the VTA has apologized to Mr. Brooks for the incident. The driver was completely rude and inappropriate in his dealing with Mr. Brooks, in explaining that the bus was full and that is why the bus did not stop to pick him up,” Suzanne Cioffi, the VTA’s record access officer, told The Times in an email.

In a phone conversation with The Times Monday, Brooks said it’s been business as usual for him since the incident, as he is still commuting to the Island and working at Mac’s Barber Shop in Edgartown. Brooks also does house calls for haircuts, is a filmmaker, and breeds awardwinning American Bully dogs, which he enters in dog shows around the state.

Brooks said he has contacted an attorney to look into the incident, but said he is still weighing the option of pursuing any legal action.

VTA administrator Angela Grant responded to an email saying the VTA would have no further comment on the incident.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I am very concerned about the reporting standards displayed by the Times on this story. They claim to have made a Public Records request for the recording of “the incident”, they acknowledge receiving a heavily edited version, present this as fact, while the reader is left to guess what has been redacted by the VTA. It appears to be a sloppy effort of a request. One which requires the VTA to justify not complying with the entirety of the available records. Get back to us when you have the whole story.