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Remembering Ethan Rivera | Family members share memories of fallen CATS bus driver

Ethan Rivera's family remembers him as someone with a big heart and a jokester within the family.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — We are learning more about CATS bus driver, Ethan Rivera, who was shot and killed during his shift in Uptown this weekend.

Family members are calling this a senseless act of violence and want justice for him.

“He's a person that was always smiling. He's the type of person who wears his heart on his sleeve," his cousin, Hector Coca, said.

Ethan Rivera, 41, is known for his big heart and as the jokester in the family who loved to make everyone laugh. He was also a father and moved to North Carolina to be closer to his kids.

Credit: Family of Rivera

“One of his biggest objectives was to be involved, to be a good dad and for them to have a good father,” his aunt, Rebecca Rivera, said. "We can't get him back, and those kids are going to grow up without a father. You know, and that breaks my heart."

Coca is a train operator in New York. He said Ethan Rivera was happy to start working at CATS.

"He was happy that he could have something to retire with, you know, and something that could help him benefit his kids more. It put him in a better position to provide for his kids. His kids were really his whole world."

However, Coca said he knows too well the dangers that come with working in transportation. A conversation they have shared many times.

“He had concerns as far as working the route that he was on…and the area.”

Ethan Rivera was shot in Uptown while working his bus route Friday night. It happened after a verbal exchange with another driver. Authorities say he died while in the hospital on Saturday.

RELATED: CATS bus driver shot in Uptown dies, CMPD confirms

Following this incident, we have heard from several CATS employees who tell us they don’t feel safe on the job.

“Bus drivers are getting spit on, curse out, name-calling like you have no idea,” one employee who wants to remain anonymous to protect their job told WCNC Charlotte.

The worker said there are some safety measures in place like safety training at hire, a panic button for emergency and a partition to shield drivers from passengers but they’re not stopping violent acts from taking place. 

"Every day, I feel like my life is in jeopardy," the worker said. "When I pull off on my bus, I say a prayer for myself and for my co-workers because I know anything can happen."

The worker would like to have more security.

MORE NEWS: Burglary suspect shot, killed by police in Concord, authorities say

"At one point they had sheriffs down there at the center. They're long gone. They would randomly ride a bus….nobody's riding a bus with us for safety," the worker explained.

Drivers tell us they want the agency to work with staff to improve the workplace environment, so they feel protected. 

WCNC Charlotte reached out to CATS for comments about safety protocols and is waiting to hear back. The agency did send the following statement on Sunday: 

"On Friday, February 11 CATS Bus Operator, Ethan Rivera, was tragically shot and killed during his shift. He was the victim of a senseless act of violence. Ethan was a public servant and valued member of the Charlotte community. We grieve with his family during this time. All questions related to this incident should be directed to CMPD."

As for Ethan Rivera’s family, they're trying to cope with the loss.

"I feel like he was super cheated out of life. He was on his way to what he was creating for himself, and it was just taken away. We're all besides ourselves. We're all heartbroken and completely in shock for what happened and very angry," Rebecca Rivera said.

“He paid the ultimate sacrifice, you know, doing something that he really enjoyed, he loved operating that bus,” Coca added.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is continuing to investigate the case.

Contact Jesse Pierre at jpierrepet@wcnc.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Credit: Family of Ethan Rivera

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