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Mom Blames DART|for Son’s Dragging Death

DALLAS (CN) - A train dragged a 19-year-old man to his death after four teenage bullies beat him up to try to steal his iPhone, and the late man's mother blames the Dallas Area Rapid Transit agency for failing to protect him.

The four assailants - ages 12 to 15 - all have been sentenced to long prison terms.

They beat the late Octavius Lanier on Nov. 22, 2011 as he rode a DART train to a doctor's appointment, and continued bullying him when he left the train at the Martin Luther King DART station in east Dallas.

Lanier's mother, Takeysha Keys, sued Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the four boys -Verendeze Gage, Cortney Woods, Daymion Savannah and Royneco Harris - in Dallas County Court.

"DART and its employees failed to do anything despite the four perpetrators' threatening behavior continuing for almost the entire train ride," Keys says in the lawsuit.

As the beating continued at the Martin Luther King Station a Good Samaritan tried to protect her son, but the bullies stepped around him and continued the beating.

"They punched, kicked, stomped and beat Octavius, causing him to fall to the ground," the mother says. "DART and its employees failed to do anything to stop the savage attack at the DART station."

Keys says that rather than call for help or take action to stop the beating, the train conductor sped away from the station.

Each light rail car has intercom access panels that allow passengers to call the conductor for help - the complaint is silent at to whether anyone tried to contact the conductor before he left the station. The complaint also is silent as to whether DART police officers or fare inspectors were aboard at the time.

"As the DART train left the station, Octavius' leg became caught between the train and the station platform," the complaint states. "The DART train conductor failed to assure conditions were safe before driving the train from the MLK station. Octavius was dragged over 30 feet by the train, severing his femoral artery," killing him.

Keys claims DART knew there had been a sharp increase in violent crimes on its network throughout 2011, that "robberies and thefts increased by nearly 100 percent from 2010 to 2011." She claims the agency waited until February 2012 before doing anything about it, by placing DART police officers or security guards at every station and every train.

DART Police Chief James Spiller cited "three homicides in 76 days" as proof of widespread crime in the system, Keys says.

A DART spokesman on Thursday said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

DART operates buses, light rail, the Trinity Railway Express commuter rail to Fort Worth and high-occupancy highway vehicle lanes in Dallas and 12 suburbs.

Keys seeks actual and punitive damages for wrongful death and negligence.

She is represented by Lennie Bollinger with Wormington Law Group in McKinney.

The Dallas Morning News and other media did not report the names of the bullies because they are all minors.

The Morning News did report that a 14-year-old and 15-year-old were each sentenced to 30 years in prison, a 14-year-old to 22 years, and a 12-year-old to 7 years, to begin in a juvenile facility.

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