Metro rail passenger set ablaze in unprovoked attack

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A woman who appeared to be homeless set a 70-year-old Metro rail passenger on fire in an unprovoked attack in Pasadena over the weekend, officials said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department responded to an assault call on the L, or Gold, Line train at Lake Avenue around 10:55 pm Saturday. The unidentified woman had said something to the passenger and he ignored it, said Ramon Montenegro, a spokesman for the sheriff’s Transit Services Bureau.

She then squirted the man with a flammable liquid and set him on fire with a lighter. Other passengers rushed to help, using their jackets or whatever they had on him to snuff out the flames, Montenegro said.


The two did not appear to know each other. The suspect in this case was arrested, and the victim was transported to a hospital. He is in serious but stable condition and expected to survive.

The incident is one of a string of cases in which homeless individuals have attacked Metro riders or workers.

Violent crimes have jumped 81% for the first two months of this year on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s bus and rail system. It comes as the agency has been grappling with a surge of homelessness on its system as riders return to commuting. At Union Station, the system’s main transit hub, workers say homeless people grappling with mental illness regularly scream insults and threats and have assaulted them.

“This unprovoked attack is shocking,” said Los Angeles County supervisor and Metro director Kathryn Barger, who represents the area. “It speaks to the need to have public safety officials on-site at Metro stations.”

The agency contracts with the sheriff, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Long Beach Police Department to patrol the system. The Metro board recently authorized extending the three-agency contract for up to a year to allow time to develop a new process for selecting an agency or agencies to handle security.

This month, a man was set on fire at a downtown bus stop near Olympic Boulevard and Flower Street. At the time, no one was arrested, and the Los Angeles Fire Department said arson investigators are still working the case.