DART Contractor Accused of Sexually Assaulting Disabled Passenger


DART transit bus | Image by DART

Garland police arrested a driver contracted by Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) on Tuesday for the alleged sexual assault of a disabled passenger.

DART police and Garland PD responded on June 6 to a report from the 23-year-old passenger that a paratransit driver sexually assaulted her.

According to DART, “Paratransit is a shared-ride service operated with modern accessible vehicles and taxi cabs.”

Disability Rights Texas explains the service “is for people with disabilities who cannot use the ‘fixed route’ bus or rail service (also known as ‘mainline’ service)” and “usually provide[s] door-to-door service for people who call to reserve a ride.”

The driver, 44-year-old Samson Assefa Lemma, picked the victim up from her Garland home around 10:30 a.m. to take her to her job, Garland PD said in a press release.

Per the release, evidence indicates Lemma sexually assaulted the 23-year-old passenger, who has a diagnosed mental disability, during the trip.

All DART buses, trains, and paratransit vehicles have onboard cameras, according to spokesperson Gordon Shattles. In this case, it appears Lemma purposely covered the onboard camera.

“In this incident, the subcontracted operator covered that camera to prevent being recorded,” Shattles alleged in an email.

After the passenger reported the incident, Shattles said, the company immediately pulled the driver off his route and impounded his vehicle.

Lemma drove for Big Star Transit, a subcontractor for MV Transportation, DART’s contractor for paratransit services. He passed all criminal and sex offender background checks before becoming a subcontract operator for DART, Shattles said.

Based on the investigation, Garland detectives obtained a warrant for Lemma and arrested him at his Wylie home on Tuesday night.

Lemma bonded out of the Garland jail on Wednesday, according to Garland PD Lieutenant Richard Maldonado.

When FOX 4 asked the suspect about the charges, Lemma responded, “Nothing happened.”

DART police and GPD are working together to continue the investigation. There are no other alleged victims, but detectives have not ruled out the possibility that others exist.

Garland PD asks anyone with information or concerns to contact the department at 972-485-4840.

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