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T O P I C     R E V I E W
Member # 3374
 - posted
Just when you think you've heard it all...

The 4/16/07 Oakland-Sacramento train 546 was stopped by youth on the tracks. The engineer was pulled from the cab and beaten! Arrests were made, and one charge was train robbery!

See the SF Chronicle article at:
George Harris
Member # 2077
 - posted
This message from Gene Skoropowski appears in a couple of other web sites:

Last evening we had perhaps the most serious incident regarding either vandalism or intent to disrupt service and/or injure, maim or kill members of a train crew. It is the most horrific incident I have seen in my nearly 40 years in the railroad business.

At approximately 10.15 PM last evening in West Sacramento, as Train #546 was approaching the I Street bridge to Sacramento and the Train station, the train slowed due to a restricting signal. A group of people placed themselves on the tracks in front of the train, forcing the engineer to stop the train. The engineer and engineer-in-training secured the train and went downstairs in an attempt to clear the tracks. Upon opening the door of the cab car, the engineer was dragged off the train and assaulted with rocks and bottles, and was beaten so badly that he has had staples put into his head to repair the damage, and is still suffering from blood in his urine, indicating internal injuries. Upon an immediate emergency call, the engineer (Mr. Jake Keating) was transported by ambulance to U.C. Davis Medical Center in Sacramento where he will be staying for some time. Regular riders may want to drop him a get well card, or some indication of appreciation for the job he, and all the Amtrak crews do, every day, for the Capitol Corridor service.

However, there was no rhyme or reason for this unprovoked attack, and the attacked train crew member could just as easily have been a Union Pacific crew member, a Burlington Northern crew member or a crew member from any of the other Amtrak trains. As of this writing, one member of the gang that allegedly did this is in custody by police.

It is unknown at this time what motivated this attack, or if there was any motivation at all (maybe just "sport", which is a horrible thought given all the carnage at Virginia Tech yesterday). While the area along the tracks in West Sacramento has been a magnet for years for vagrants, homeless encampments and others who have intentionally done damage to our trains (rocks breaking windows, debris intentionally placed on the tracks to try to damage equipment), last night is by far the most serious incident we have encountered in the eight year existence of the Capitol Corridor. Our Amtrak-operated Capitol Corridor service justly has a reputation of being 'a safe and secure service', both for passengers and crew members. This event last night has shaken that confidence and, even with all the measures we have taken (expanded Amtrak Police presence, cab mounted cameras, surveillance cameras in and around Sacramento Station), and that are taking (on-board security cameras, wireless transmission, and wayside cameras), there does need to be some immediate follow-up action to try to prevent any repeat of this incident, particularly in West Sacramento, which has been a continuing problem area.

I am making the following requests:

1.We are making a plea to the West Sacramento Police for additional patrols in this area. We are also asking Union Pacific Police, the State Highway Patrol, and Amtrak Police to focus on this problem area in West Sacramento between the I Street Bridge and the levee where the trains cross the Yolo wetlands.

2.We are asking Union Pacific Railroad and the City of West Sacramento
to immediately cut all the brush on both sides of the UPRR right-of-way, from one side of the railroad right-of-way to the other, removing all obstacles to vision, and cutting down all large bushes and trees/overgrown weeds which are housing several West Sacramento homeless encampments along the tracks, and to remove this cut brush and all other cut brush from the property, including discarded ties and other illegally dumped trash and debris that might be placed in front of trains. Police assistance will likely be required, due to the extensive homeless encampments.

3. We will be asking Caltrans and the State Highway Patrol, and all
local and railroad police, to 'beef up' patrols of this area, and enforce the 'no trespassing' laws to their full extent.

4.To the extent this incident may be a federal offense, we will be
in contact with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the U.S. Justice department and any other federal entities that may have jurisdiction over an incident of this type.

5.We will be asking Union Pacific to look at the signalling/track
conditions on this part of the railroad to see if there is any way to permit trains to pass through this area as quickly as safety will allow, including relocating signals or upgrading tracks for their maximum authorized speed limit, in order to get trains through this area as quickly as possible, and to minimize any 'slow movement' which might be an attraction for further incidents. We recognize that this may be difficult, as the I Street Bridge is an old, moveable bridge, with road traffic on its upper level (Jaboom Street), but we are trying to identify every possible means to minimize the opportunity for future incidents.

6.We will attempt to identify safety and security funds to accelerate
installation of night-vision cameras in this area so that engineers on trains approaching this area might be given an advance warning of 'potential trouble', based upon real-time observations of activity along the tracks.

It is most troubling to me since this area of west Sacramento is actually starting to be reinvigorated by new investments, and residential units along the west bank area of the Sacramento River. Yet the area along the tracks seems to have become a worse attraction for homeless, vagrant and destructive activity of late. Clearly, a determined, rigid, and consistent effort is going to be needed to be made by all parties if this problem is to be corrected and the area made safe for people and trains.

This is most somber note I have written in a long time.


Eugene K. Skoropowski
Managing Director
Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority
300 Lakeside Drive, 14th floor
Oakland, California 94612
Mr. Toy
Member # 311
 - posted
I've read several accounts of this story in the last couple of days. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it seems to me unwise for the conductor to have confronted a gang of juvenile delinquents by himself. Maybe they looked harmless, so he thought it was safe enough, but they were throwing bottles which would certainly have made me think twice about confronting them alone. When they turned out to be more aggressive than expected the engineer had no choice but to try to help, since he was the only other person available. Unfortunately, neither were prepared for what followed. Since the train slowed because the trespassers had already been reported, law enforcement should have been called at the first report, and the train crew should probably have stayed put until proper authorities could clear the tracks.
Member # 3374
 - posted
Mr Toy,

How could it be so easy to hijack a train?
George Harris
Member # 2077
 - posted
Cause to stop, yes. Hijack, no.
Member # 5065
 - posted
Some years ago in Italy we'd a similar case
Two young people switch on a train in Central Station of Milan... but when they really were playing with the loco police arrested them!
And few days ago some people stolen the tracks and the wires of the electric power and signaling sistem
George Harris
Member # 2077
 - posted
The trial is about to start for these hoodlums:

From the Sacramento Bee web site:

... all five defendants were members of the Broderick Boys street gang.
The defendants are Orlando Javier Ramos, Robert James Reynolds, Austen Nunes, Pauliton Ricardo Nunes and Daniel Bonje.

They were charged as adults with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and attempted robbery.

The Defense lawyer:
...the teens were drinking beer stolen from a local market and that the teens had thrown rocks at the train as it traveled toward the I Street Bridge in West Sacramento.

...the fight was started by the train crew and the teens were defending themselves.

The comments on the article were more or less on the lynch 'em and be done with it variety.

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