Psychiatrist assessment ordered for bus driver attacker

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An attempt to declare an Edmonton man a dangerous offender for the vicious assault of a bus driver took a step forward Monday.

Provincial court Judge Harry Bridges ordered Garry Edwin Mattson held over for a battery of psychiatric and psychological assessments to help determine whether he should be declared a dangerous offender. The status would see him incarcerated almost indefinitely.

Bridges said the hearings painted Mattson as argumentative and aggressive, adding the attack was entirely unwarranted.

“The video shows a brutal and senseless attack against a bus driver who was seated and therefore more vulnerable to attack.”

Mattson pleaded guilty in April to an attack on 59-year-old Edmonton Transit bus driver and St. Albert resident Tom Bregg.

Security video footage of the beating, shown in court last month, showed Mattson arguing with Bregg, apparently over a fare dispute, before the driver demanded he leave the bus.

Mattson then punched Bregg, landing three successive blows before dragging him from the bus and repeatedly stomping on his face.

Bridges noted the video of the attack made it clear Mattson was attacking a defenceless man.

“In the video, the driver seems unconscious and clearly helpless, as he lies on his back beside the bus. The accused then stomped on the complainant’s head approximately 14 times.”

Bregg spent 16 days in intensive care recovering from the attack, as well as several more weeks in hospital and at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Centre.

While explaining his reasoning, Bridges pointed to Mattson’s criminal record, which showed several assaults and violent offences.

On the last day of the hearings, the court heard testimony from two women who had thrown Mattson out of a small party at their house after he got into an argument.

Mattson was argumentative when he first left and then came back to the apartment and again quarrelled with the women.

After he was arrested, Mattson spat at an officer and argued with police even while in cells at the police station.

“This shows a pattern of senselessly aggressive behaviour, over a number of hours, directed against a number of people, in a wide range of social situations,” said Bridges.

Bridges’ decision does not designate Mattson as a dangerous offender. Before that can happen the court will receive the psychiatric assessments and the Crown will need permission from the attorney general.

Call for change

As has been the case at all the hearings, several members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) were present at the Edmonton courthouse.

Bregg was not present at the hearing, but ATU president Stu Litwinowich said the driver is starting to return to his normal life.

“I think he is going to be able to get back on his own motorcycle and drive his own personal vehicle again,” he said. “That has been something he has been hoping for, for quite some time.”

Litwinowich said the city has made some changes to improve driver safety since the attack, like adding more transit peace officers and testing safety shields. However, more work needs to be done, he added.

The union, along with other groups across the country, is calling for a change to the criminal code creating a separate offence for assaulting a transit worker, as there is with police officers.

Litwinowich said assaults on transit workers are continuing.

“Every couple of days, believe it or not, I get a report from safety and security, another one of our operators has been assaulted. I am tired of it.”

Bregg’s attack highlighted the problem, but Litwinowich said that shouldn’t have had to happen.

“Why does it have to come to this? It’s senseless, that is all I can say.”

The continuation of the dangerous offender hearing is scheduled for the fall.

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