Mechanic Arrested in Rampage at MTA Yard

Times Staff Writer

A suspended radio mechanic was arrested Thursday after he allegedly damaged four Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses and 13 parked cars in a bus yard near downtown Los Angeles.

Minutes after Jose Martinez, 47, of Long Beach was told of his suspension, he "became irate and walked into the bus yard," boarded a 40-foot bus and crashed into two buses parked nearby, according to Dave Sotero, a spokesman for the transportation agency.

Martinez then jumped into a second bus and drove to an employee parking area, where he smashed into the cars before sandwiching the bus he was driving between a parked car and another parked bus, according to Sotero.

No one was injured, but the incident, which began about 12:40 p.m., caused more than $100,000 in damage, said Marc Littman, another MTA spokesman.

Sotero said Martinez was able to go on his driving spree because several buses were lined up at the division headquarters on Mission Street with their engines running as their drivers prepared to hit the streets for rush-hour service.

The first two buses that were hit were the MTA's newer 60-foot buses with accordion centers. According to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Det. Michael Shaw, Martinez first backed into one, then jolted forward and rammed another.

Two MTA employees confronted Martinez after he hit the cars, escorting him off the bus without further incident, Shaw said.

Martinez, who began work at the transit agency in August 2001, was being held at Twin Towers Jail on suspicion of felony vandalism and taking a vehicle without the owner's permission, Shaw said.

Martinez's supervisors told him on Thursday that he would be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing next week, Sotero said.

He declined to say why Martinez had been suspended, citing employee privacy.

"At least it was confined to the bus yard and no one was injured," Littman said of the damage.

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