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Video calls into question criminal charges against CTA employees fired for fighting with rider

One plausible interpretation is that the bus driver felt he was being attacked and the second CTA employee was coming to his aid.

Now that a second, longer video has surfaced of a June 11 punch-throwing fight between two CTA employees and a bus rider, we hope the transit agency and prosecutors thoroughly review every decision they have made since then.

The CTA fired bus driver Leonard Andrews Jr., who was the first to be involved in the fight at about 2 a.m. with the passenger. Also fired was employee Milan Williams, who came on the scene moments later and is seen body-slamming the 43-year old passenger, Lawrence Madden.

CTA officials say the employees were fired for violating several rules, including conduct unbecoming a CTA employee and failure to report the incident.

Andrews, 23, has been charged with misdemeanor battery and Williams, 46, has been charged with felony aggravated battery.

We suspect many viewers thought the penalties and charges were appropriate when all they saw was the original video that went viral, which showed only the body-slamming.

But on newly released CTA surveillance video, it appears that Madden may have thrown the first punch. When the bus driver apparently responded by punching and kicking Madden, Madden made no apparent attempt to back off.

One plausible interpretation is that the bus driver felt he was being attacked and the second CTA employee felt he was coming to the aid of a co-worker.

The CTA and law officers may know more. But the longer video suggests this is a case that needs a careful reappraisal, especially the criminal charges.

At about 25 seconds into the video, Madden gets off the CTA bus near 77th and Western. At about 27 seconds, he appears to take a swing at Andrews. At 30 seconds, Andrews appears to respond by kicking and punching Madden. At 1 minute and 19 seconds, Williams enters the scene and, four seconds later, picks up Madden and body slams him to the pavement.

Even the longer video does not tell the full story. And the CTA understandably is concerned about the optics of a passenger being body-slammed by an employee.

Tamara Walker, one of Madden’s attorneys, told the Sun-Times that regardless of whether her client threw a punch, the two CTA employees were out of line.

Also, Andrews could have simply driven on rather than engage with Madden to begin with.

But what is fair and proportionate punishment?

If the passenger did throw the first punch, the context changes. The CTA should review every action — and reaction.

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