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Attacker cuts HART driver in leg, bus did not have new protective barrier

A driver safety barrier was not installed on the bus, Tampa's police chief said. They were proposed earlier this year after another driver was stabbed to death.

TAMPA, Fla. — A Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, or HART, bus driver was cut several times in the leg over an argument about the bus fare in the city's Sulphur Springs neighborhood, Tampa police say.

It happened just before 2:40 p.m. Tuesday in the area of E. Waters Avenue and 9th Street, according to the Tampa Police Department.

The driver's injuries are believed to be non-life-threatening.

Police say the suspected attacker, 65-year-old James Lee Ambrose, used pepper spray on the driver and a box cutter to slice his leg multiple times. He was taken into custody after running off.

Ambrose has prior charges on his record dating back to the 1970s, and includes aggravated battery, felony aggravated battery, domestic violence, resisting arrest, theft and cannabis, and drug paraphernalia possession.

"This is one of those things where it happened very quickly," Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said. A passenger stepped in to help the driver as the attacker became upset over a fare, he added.

In June, HART announced it would install driver safety barriers on all buses and HARTFlex vans. The agency allocated $1 million toward the project, with each barrier costing an estimated $5,000.

The move came after driver Thomas Dunn was stabbed to death by a passenger in May. More than 100 barriers have already been installed, a HART spokesperson confirmed, with installations happening daily. The goal is to install the barriers in the remaining 80 buses by the end of the year.

A safety barrier was not installed on the bus in Tuesday's attack, HART confirmed. Though a spokesperson said it's unclear if the barrier would've fully protected the driver in this instance, given the suspected use of pepper spray.

Two Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, or PSTA, buses are equipped with protective shields, agency spokeswoman Stephanie Rank said. Fifty shields are expected to be delivered in December, with 25 coming in January and every few weeks thereafter to equip the entire fleet.

RELATED: Man accused of killing HART bus driver found not competent to stand trial

RELATED: HART will install bus safety barriers after deadly attack on driver

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