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ECHO PARK : Youth Sues MTA, Alleges Racial Bias

August 29, 1993|IRIS YOKOI

A 14-year-old youth who claims a public bus knocked him to the ground has sued the Metropolitan Transit Authority, claiming the incident was an example of racial discrimination by bus drivers.

Attorney Howard Levine) filed the lawsuit last week for Arturo Orozco, who reportedly suffered cuts, bruises, a sprained ankle and back injuries when the bus rounded a corner at Montana Street and Echo Park Avenue on April 26 and allegedly struck the shopping cart he was pushing.

Orozco claims the bus slowed for a moment but the driver then drove away. The lawsuit charges the MTA with discrimination and seeks unspecified damages. Levine said the El Sereno Junior High School student is still undergoing physical therapy.

Orozco's family is part of a group of Latinos who claim they have been subjected to rude and insulting treatment by bus drivers because of their race and limited English skills. But Orozco's lawsuit was filed solely in connection with his incident and does not involve the group, Grupo Latino de Echo Park.

Orozco said his mother, Celia Manzanares, called transit police immediately after the incident and an officer came to take a report.

The teen-ager said the officer simply asked him a few questions, directed him to get medical treatment and left without leaving her name or a telephone number.

The family said they never heard again from the transit authority.

Levine criticized the transit police for failing to send a Spanish-speaking officer to Orozco's home, claiming it hindered communication for Orozco's Spanish-speaking mother, who witnessed the incident. Orozco's condition did not enable him to translate effectively, Levine said.

"It's the apparent attitude of the MTA toward the neighborhood," Levine said.

"It's further evidence of the kind of treatment (Latino) people are getting from the MTA."

Transit authority spokesman Greg Davy declined comment on the suit.

Grupo Latino members have lodged complaints with the transit authority about other incidents in which bus drivers have allegedly made insulting comments about Latino passengers' English skills, engaged in loud and abusive arguments with passengers and failed to stop for Latinos.

Transit officials have said they are investigating the complaints as possible violations of the agency's requirement that drivers treat all passengers with courtesy and respect. But transit officials have stopped short of agreeing to the group's demands for cultural sensitivity and language training, saying they do not see a need to revamp their training program.

Grupo Latino members say they hope to meet with transit officials in September to learn the results of the investigations and to try again to persuade officials of the need for sensitivity training.

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