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'Our job is never done': Army veteran who saved HART bus driver during attack shares his story

Posted at 4:16 PM, Nov 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-21 17:09:41-05

TAMPA, Fla — A typical Tuesday bus ride to work turned into chaos very quickly.

A HART bus driver was attacked by a passenger on Tuesday. The passenger attacked him with a box cutter.

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Police credited a passenger who risked his own safety to help stop the fight.

"I didn’t know what to do but react,” said John Phelps, a passenger who takes the same HART bus route to and from work.

He's a combat veteran and put himself between HART bus operator Schnaider Prophete and another passenger, James Ambrose who police say attacked him with a box cutter and can of mace.

"Our job is never over, protecting the country and the citizens of this country,” Phelps said.

'Our job is never done': Army veteran who saved HART bus driver during attack shares his story

Phelps says something really wasn’t right about Ambrose from the start.

"I kept an eye on Mr. Ambrose from the time I heard his voice when he was standing outside the bus and all of the vulgar language -- I kept an eye on him," he said.

He says once Prophete was on the ground, it was life or death.

"I think that Mr. Prophete wouldn’t even be here. That’s what I think, that’s my opinion,” he said.

The Tampa Police Department agrees with Phelps and believes not only did he save Prophete from further injury, but he also kept the other passengers on the bus safe.

Prophete, from his hospital bed Wednesday, called Phelps an angel.

"Well he’s a prophet,” he said laughing. "Prophets have to be watched out for. If I’m the angel for the prophet then thank God."

Prophete told us he doesn’t think the safety barriers are being installed quick enough.

HART says it's going as quickly as the manufacturing process will let them, with 30 barricades per shipment. It says as of Tuesday, 104 out of the 180 buses had the shields, and installers have sent in two more people to kick up their weekly installations from four buses to eight.

Phelps says he does worry about his wife because she also takes the bus to and from work. But, he says danger can happen anywhere at any time and wants people to start looking out for each other.


"Don’t be afraid to ride the bus and don’t be afraid to speak up and don’t be afraid to stand up because that’s what makes it safer for everyone, not just the driver but for the passengers as well,” said Phelps.

He hopes that message spreads through communities and the entire city because he believes it would be a better place. He is also excited to meet Prophete once he’s better.

"He’s a good guy and I thank him for getting us back-and-forth to work. His job is really important to me,” Phelps said. "He said he wants to meet me I’m looking forward to meeting him too."

HART says all of its buses will have the barriers installed by January 2020.