CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As loved ones are still reeling from the killing of a beloved bus driver in Charlotte, the community has opportunities to honor his life and memory.
Ethan Rivera, 41, was a driver for the Charlotte Area Transit System. According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Rivera was working a route along West Trade Street in Uptown on Feb. 11 when a driver got into a verbal altercation with him. The driver fired at Rivera, leaving him with life-threatening injuries. Rivera passed away in a hospital less than a day later.
Since then, CMPD has promised they're working tirelessly to make an arrest, releasing surveillance photos of the suspect's face and car captured on surveillance camera. During a news conference on Feb. 15, Rivera's family begged the community for any help they could get in finding the suspect.
'He was loved'
As a way of remembering Rivera, CATS asked the community and riders to observe a moment of silence at noon on Friday, Feb. 18. CATS paused transit operations for two minutes. The service then sent an "all-call" on the radio to bus, rail, and paratransit operators to announce the moment.
Loved ones and coworkers also held a candlelight vigil for Rivera along Alleghany Street in Charlotte Thursday night, sharing memories and grief together.
“If you knew Ethan you knew he was always going to have a smile on his face and uplift you," one friend said.
His mother, Sylvia, also recalled the better times and says she's so thankful for all the support.
"That makes me feel good that he felt a legacy behind and that shows how much he was loved and how much he was loveable," Sylvia Rivera said.
PHOTOS: Remembering Ethan Rivera
WCNC Charlotte reporter Jesse Pierre spoke with Rivera's cousin and aunt, who said he was a dedicated father who also loved his job. He was fondly remembered as the family jokester who still had much to live for.
CATS employees and community members said they planned to gather at the spot where Rivera's life was taken in Uptown along West Trade Street on Friday at 9:30 a.m. to demand more safety changes be made to help prevent future tragedies. They asked for security officers on nightly routes and bulletproof partitions on each bus.
"It heightened already a pre-existing view," Nichel Dunlap Thompson, from Southern Workers Assembly, said of Rivera's death. "It heightened the fear of other families. It heightened this community. It's not just the operator suffering. Get the safety of the riders as well."
Acts of violence against CATS operators
The shooting death of Rivera is one of the latest in an escalating number of attacks against CATS employees in recent years. In fact, acts of violence against CATS bus drivers doubled between 2019 and 2021.
“We move this city and for us to be treated the way we are treated is unacceptable. You don’t go to work to fear for your life,” said a Transportation employee.
The shooting death of Rivera has sparked outrage and a call for increased safety measures for bus drivers in the city.
Since 2018, the Charlotte Area Transit System reports over 40 assaults on its operators and the pace is picking up. There were eight assaults in 2018, seven in 2019, 11 in 2020 jumping to 14 in 202. As of Thursday, there have been three attacks in 2022 so far.
According to a CMPD police report, on February 10 the night before Rivera was shot another man employed at CATS was assaulted with pliers. He ended up in the hospital with severe lacerations to his face. The bus's glass door was also shattered causing $200 in damage.
On Feb. 14, CMPD took a report from someone employed at CATS who stated that a suspect damaged the plexiglass partition and then spat on the victim.
Earlier this week, Lieutenant Steve Fischbach called these kinds of attacks unacceptable.
“It's important to realize that our bus drivers are public servants who literally drive this city," Fischbach said. "We have neighbors who depend on our CATS bus drivers to get them to work, school and back home again to their families."
The police reports also include threats of violence. In one case a passenger threatened an employee with a gun, before getting off the bus.
“This is a point that all of us should stand up," Fischbach said. "We should take a stand and say you are not going to treat those who serve our city in this manner."
CATS buses have cameras and partition shields. The agency also tells us they employ armed and unarmed security for their transit services and facilities. But the statistics speak for themselves: acts of violence against employees continue to increase.
Contact Briana Harper at email@example.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Contact Jane Monreal at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Contact Jesse Pierre at email@example.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.