An angry passenger pulled a gun on a bus driver, the latest in a disturbing series of attacks on local operators.
The middle-aged man pointed a handgun at the driver and threatened to kill him on a quiet street in Kelowna Wednesday night. He approached the driver's window after getting off the bus and pulled the trigger three times, say police.
The pistol made a clicking sound each time, terrifying the driver. The gunman ran south on Craig Road and disappeared. The operator was unable to identify the culprit from a photo lineup.
The incident follows a woman stabbing a driver with a syringe in late June and a man breaking another driver's jaw two weeks later. Both suspects are now before the courts.
"Violence is unfortunately on the rise in Kelowna. It's gone from a sleepy town to world headlines," said Les Milton, president of the drivers' union local. "It shakes you to your core."
The No. 11 bus had reached the end of its route at 11 p.m. Wednesday. The gunman was the last passenger on board when the vehicle stopped on McCurdy Road about 300 metres from Rutland Road by the Rutland Sportsfields. He lost his temper when the driver told him it was the end of the line, and he got off.
He walked a few paces toward Rutland Road and turned back. The driver opened his window thinking the passenger had a question for him. He said the man took out what looked like a handgun and said "I'll kill you," RCMP said.
The driver, who has five years' experience, declined to work his shift Thursday night. He's expected to return today.
The incident is the first gun threat against an operator in B.C., said Meribeth Burton, who speaks for B.C. Transit. The syringe attack in West Kelowna is also a first for the province.
"It's the level of violence that's so alarming," Burton said. "We're deeply disturbed. Our operators are in a public service often in vulnerable positions."
Police are looking for two women who spoke to the man before they got off the bus at an earlier stop on Hollywood Road. They may help identify the suspect, said Const. Kris Clark.
The attacks in the Central Okanagan and elsewhere in Canada have prompted calls for tougher penalties against violent bus passengers.
Liberal MP Ralph Goodale and union representatives gathered in Burnaby to discuss the issue last week.
The Saskatchewan MP has a private member's bill before Parliament that would allow judges to consider harsher sentences for attacks on bus drivers. Goodale and MPs from other parties support changes to the Criminal Code that would elevate assaults on bus drivers to the same level as police, paramedics and firefighters.
The suspect is Caucasian, in his mid 40s and five foot eight. He had dark, wavy short hair and wore a denim jacket and blue jeans.
Amanda Chrystal Best, 31, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault after the syringe attack. She remains in custody and makes her next court appearance in September.
Police say she waited on a transit bus until all passengers got off. She approached the driver in his seat, stabbed him with the needle and ran away. He was taken to hospital and given medication similar to chemo-therapy.
In mid-July, a man asked to stop at Boucherie Road but the driver kept going because there was no designated stop. When the bus reached an interchange, the passenger punched him repeatedly in the head, witnesses said, shattering his jaw.
A sniffer dog tracked down the suspect. Regan Hammond, 33, is charged with assault causing bodily harm. The driver has not yet returned to work, said Milton.