Men become Internet sensations for fight on Oakland, Calif. transit bus
By Jim Hagerty
Two California men are Internet sensations after an argument on a Oakland transit bus escalated into a fist fight.
Thomas Bruso, 67, and a man known only as Michael, 50, met on the AC Transit bus and began arguing about a racial slur Michael, who is black, alleged Bruso made about him. As the two men bickered, an amateur videographer began capturing footage.
Tuesday, Feb. 16, was like most days for Thomas Bruso, also known as the “Epic Beard Man.” He ran a series of errands and bought a new pair of shoes to wear at his mother’s funeral. Riding the bus as he often does, Bruso began casually talking to another passenger. After a few minutes of banter, the man became angry, accusing Bruso, who is white, of making racially offensive comments. Instead of engaging in further chatter, Bruso moved to the front of the bus.
As the camera rolled, Michael followed Bruso, still exchanging words with the Vietnam vet. While it’s unclear if Michael hit Bruso, he did make brief contact before Bruso sprung to his feet and delivered a series of jabs and crosses. The blows sent Michael tumbling over seats and onto the floor of the bus.
Withing hours of making it to YouTube, several hundred thousand viewers had watched the clip. As of today, Wednesday, Feb. 24, the footage has been viewed more than 2. 5 million times.
Meantime, reporters from across the United States have been scurrying to interview Brusco, Michael and the author of the footage from what is now known officially as the “AC Transit Bus Incident.”
Soon after becoming a public figure, Bruso has given several makeshift interviews about his version of the brawl. The videographer, who is alleged to be an instigator in the violence, has also come forward claiming she was just out looking for something interesting to shoot.
Originally thought to be footage of a young thug picking on a defenseless senior citizen, the now famous “Epic Beard Man” video has now been uncovered as a display of public foolishness by an intoxicated black man and older white passenger with a history of making public spectacles of himself.
In post-fight interviews, Bruso made claims that Michael punched him face several times, which the video clearly does not indicate, robbed him, also void from the clip, and that he was praised by police for a courageous act of vigilantism.
Earlier videos of Bruso have now followed bus footage to YouTube, the most notable a clip of the Epic Beard Man being shocked by a Taser at an Oakland A’s baseball game. According to Alameda County police officers, Bruso was arrested last summer for an array of charges including resisting arrest.
Bruso is also known on the streets of Oakland as “Slick,” “Tommy Slick,” “Veitnam Tom,” and “Chicago Tom.” He’s especially proud of his prowess during the fight.
“I busted his lip open,” Bruso said. “He can’t chew apples for a couple of months. He can’t kiss no girls because his lips are out-of-shape. They’re all bloody and messy. It will take three months for his lips to heal.”
Michael also hasn’t been silent. Monday, Feb. 22, he appeared on a San Francisco radio station to tell his side of the story. On the air, Michael apologized to the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit Authority for his role in the fight. Michael said he’s willing to forgive Bruso and let “bygones be bygones.”
“First of all, I would like to apologize to AC Transit, to the public and to anyone that was on that bus that day, because of the way I conducted myself,” Michael said on Wild 94.9FM.
Both men were brought to an Oakland police station after the fight. Neither was charged.
Bruso claims he spent the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 16 in the John George Hospital psychiatric ward were he was administered morphine before receiving a complimentary ride home by police, who allowed him to blow the squad car siren and ride in the front seat.
The argument preceding the fight was reportedly over comments made about what Michael would charge Bruso to shine his new pair of Stacy Adams dress shoes.
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