Jan. 29--A 34-year-old Metro-North employee was arrested and suspended Tuesday morning after he allegedly masturbated on a sleeping passenger, law enforcement and railroad officials said, continuing a year of tragedy and embarrassment for the railroad.
Enjoying a morning nap on the 7:35 a.m. train from Grand Central to New Haven, the female passenger awoke to find the suspect ejaculating on her, officials said. When he turned to flee, she followed, screaming, in pursuit of her assailant as he jumped off the train at the next stop.
Manny Ramos, of Brooklyn, N.Y., fled the train as it pulled into the Fairfield station, police said, shutting it down for nearly an hour as MTA and municipal police scoured the aisles and surrounding area for the suspect. Another train was stopped at the Southport station before Fairfield officers eventually located the suspect on a walkway over the tracks.
Ramos was charged with public indecency and breach of peace, both misdemeanors, as well as disorderly conduct. His bond was set at $1,000, which he posted.
Metro-North hired Ramos as a coach cleaner in 2011, and transferred him to an engineer training program in March 2013. He was suspended without pay Tuesday, MTA officials said.
"Everyone at Metro-North is outraged by the disgusting actions that this employee is alleged to have committed," said Metro-North President Howard Permut, "and we are glad our train crew and the MTA Police Department acted quickly to apprehend him. We hold our employees to a high standard, and his alleged conduct is completely unacceptable. We will assist Connecticut prosecutors in any way possible as they pursue their criminal case."
When a conductor heard the commotion and learned what was happening, he detained the train at 9:05 a.m. in Fairfield and notified the rail traffic controller that a police response was needed to apprehend the suspect.
Confused riders on the stalled train waited, doors open to the cold, with no immediate explanation. Short on patience after weeks of delays caused by computer glitches, human error and cold weather, commuters were shocked by the announcement that the train was being held by police.
"One of the conductors on the PA asked another conductor, 'Hey, they catch the criminal yet?' " passenger Felipe Gomez, who was sitting a car away from where the incident took place, told Hearst Connecticut Newspapers.
"When the conductor said 'criminal,' people were looking at each other. One person asked me, 'What did he say?' "
MTA Police eventually boarded the train and called for another heading west to Southport to be stopped as well, police said. Municipal officers began searching the immediate area and spread out into downtown Fairfield along the Post Road.
Passengers remained inside the train as the minutes ticked on.
"All train doors were open, so there we were, cold," said Gomez. "Everyone was getting frustrated. There was a passenger that stepped out and angrily asked the conductor to close the doors."
The train, after being thoroughly searched, was cleared to continue its course. At roughly the same time, a Fairfield officer located a man matching the description provided by the alleged victim crossing a nearby bridge over the station and tracks. He was detained after a brief interview, and was transferred to MTA Police custody, said Fairfield Police Sgt. Suzanne Lussier.
Fairfield police could not confirm why it had taken so long for Ramos to travel such a short distance, but suggested he may have been hiding for a while.
MTA police collected a napkin and other materials from the train as evidence to match a semen sample to Ramos.
Ramos was on duty, riding the train to a facility in New Haven to take a written test toward becoming an engineer on Metro-North, said Marjorie Anders, a spokeswoman for the railroad.
She said the conductor followed the railroad's protocol to directly contact the rail traffic controller who then notified police, lauding the joint response.