AC Transit Bus fight

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The AC Transit Bus fight was an altercation between two men aboard a transit bus in Oakland, California, in the United States, which took place on February 15, 2010, at approximately 12:00 p.m. PST. The fight, between 67-year-old Thomas A. Bruso (who became known as "Epic Beard Man" or "Vietnam Tom"[1]) and a 50-year-old man named Michael Lovette, was recorded on video and later uploaded to the video hosting website YouTube, where it became a viral video.[2] As of March 2013, the video has received over six million views on various blogs and websites. It ranked among the top five most viewed videos on YouTube in its first week, but was not included in the official list.[3][4] The event raised concerns following a number of previous incidents involving violence on the public transport system in Oakland.[5]

An action movie inspired by this incident, Bad Ass (starring Danny Trejo), was released on April 13, 2012.[6]


The incident took place aboard an AC Transit bus similar to this one.

The incident took place in downtown Oakland on an Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) Line NL bus bound for San Francisco, and involved a black man, identified as Michael Lovette, and an older white bearded man identified as Thomas Alexander Bruso,[7] who later came to be referred to as "Epic Beard Man".[8] The events in the bus were recorded by Iyanna Washington.[4]

In the video, Bruso is seen wearing a light blue T-shirt that reads "I AM a Motherfucker" on the back. Bruso is seated across from Lovette near the rear of the bus. Exactly how the argument started is unclear, but the conversation quickly became heated, with Lovette angrily asking Bruso, "Why's a brother got to spit shine your shoes?" Bruso has stated in later interviews that Lovette tried to make his statement racial. Bruso then tells Lovette how he was referring to a person that "was gonna shine his shoes" and that a brother "could be anyone, he could be a Chinaman!" After additional charged exchange, Bruso says, "you ain't scaring this white boy," and walks away from Lovette to the front of the bus.

Much of their conversation is inaudible, and some riders discourage Lovette from approaching Bruso, while others such as Washington encourage him to attack, saying "Say it again, Pinky!" and "Beat his white ass, whoop his ass" When the verbal exchange starts to die down again, Lovette begins walking back to his seat, at which point Bruso yells "I see tough guys like you and I slap the shit out of them!" Lovette responds "What!?", turns around and walks back toward Bruso, and swings at Bruso. Bruso stands and punches Lovette several times, knocking Lovette to the floor. View of the men is lost briefly while Washington moves closer to the commotion; when view resumes, Bruso is shown with Lovette, who is now bleeding from facial injuries, in his grasp. Bruso releases Lovette, exclaiming "I told you not to fuck with me!", and then exits the bus, and is still yelling when the bus makes its next stop. After another exchange, Lovette returns to his seat in the rear of the bus. Washington then takes a bag Bruso left behind and carries it to the back of the bus. Washington offers Lovette the use of her recording if he wishes to press charges, but Lovette never acknowledges the offer, instead requesting an ambulance.[9]

In a second video, Bruso, now on the street, continues to yell about the fight. He loudly mentions Vietnam and kicks a newspaper dispenser before walking away.[9] Both men were treated at a local hospital for their injuries.[10] Bruso underwent psychiatric evaluation at John George Psychiatric Pavilion in San Leandro. Neither man was arrested.[10][11]

Videographer's response[edit]

On February 17, 2010, Washington posted her own perspective of the events on YouTube.[4][12] In this video, Washington says she hopes to "clear some things up" (see 0:38s). She goes on later to say, "I would like to apologize to anyone who took offense to any part of this video" (see 3:14—3:21).

Responding to allegations that Lovette was her "companion," Washington makes clear, "I've never seen these two gentlemen ever before in my life", and claims she did not intend to steal Bruso's bag (though her companion says, "go through that shit" while the camera is on Bruso's bag which she picked up from the front of the bus and brought back to her seat).[13] In a subsequent interview, when asked if he got his "stuff back," Bruso said Sheriff's deputies ultimately did return his belongings, except an identification card and some money, "about three hours later."[14] See @ (3:55—4:05). Washington also appeared in a local CBS news video interview giving her version of events.[7][15]

Thomas Bruso[edit]

Bruso was born in Michigan.[16] In addition to the "AC Transit Fight", another video involving Thomas Bruso was uploaded to YouTube. He was stunned with a taser twice at the Oakland Coliseum by police on August 3, 2009 for sitting in empty seats at a ball game, questioning what he did wrong, then for failing to immediately comply with police officers who demanded he move from the empty section. He was charged with resisting arrest and taken to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation.[11]

Interviews of Bruso[edit]

Bruso was the subject of several interviews, among those one shot in San Francisco by KRON on February 19, 2010.[17][18] Nathan Hartley Maas, a graphic designer from Portland, Oregon, produced a documentary short entitled I Am a Motherfucker, in which Bruso is interviewed about his personal background, day-to-day activity, and thoughts on his contemporary celebrity status. The documentary was uploaded to YouTube.[15][16][19][20]

Spread of the meme[edit]

Within a short time of the original video going viral, musical and animated parodies about the fight began to appear on YouTube in a manner similar to the way parodies spread after the "Don't tase me, bro!" University of Florida Taser incident. The Huffington Post called the AC Transit Bus Fight "the fastest growing public fight meme ever".[8] Original songs, remixes, animations, "tributes", and other derivative and reflective videos, slide shows, and photo galleries dedicated to the event and its participants were also hosted at newly opened Internet domains with names that derived from aspects of the event.[citation needed]

Typical of the adaptations of the original video that focused on the fight as a form of video game was a Mortal Kombat parody called "Epic Beard Man – Mortal Kombat Style".[15][21]


  1. ^ Luschek, Matthew (10 May 2011). "Epic Beard Man is Homeless, Needs Help". Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. "Epic Beard Man", aka Vietnam veteran, Tom Bruso, is homeless, after being evicted from his home back in January. Filmmaker Nathan Maas made this short video featuring Vietnam Tom, where he explains himself, and how hard it is to be homeless in America.
  2. ^ "Frommer's San Francisco 2011 - Google Books",, p. 13, ISBN 978-0-470-63614-5, retrieved 2 March 2011
  3. ^ Gomez, Cina (February 17, 2010). "Fight Breaks Out In AC Transit Bus". Thaindian News. Retrieved 2010-02-19.
  4. ^ a b c "Wild Fight On Transit Bus Caught On Tape". KOVR-TV. 17 February 2010. Archived from the original on February 20, 2010. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  5. ^ Farrell, Michael B. (17 February 2010). "Fights on public transit: Oakland bus fracas is latest flash point". Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on 19 February 2010. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  6. ^ Staff (December 24, 2011). "Danny Trejo is Epic Beard Man in "Bad Ass" Trailer". Worst Previews. Retrieved December 29, 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Witness: Oakland Bus Fight Racially Tinged". CBS News. 2010-02-17. Retrieved 18 February 2010.
  8. ^ a b "Why 'Epic Beard Man' Is The Fastest Growing Public Fight Meme Ever". The Huffington Post. 20 February 2010.
  9. ^ a b Associated Press. "Raw Video: Fist Fight Aboard Oakland Bus". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-02-20.
  10. ^ a b "Fight on AC Transit bus caught on video". KGO-TV. February 17, 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
  11. ^ a b Woodall, Angela (February 19, 2010). "AC Transit bus brawler has video past". San Jose Mercury. Retrieved 2010-02-20.
  12. ^ "The Day After The World Saw Ac Transit Buc Fight I Am A Motherfucker L & Ll". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-08-13.
  13. ^ Abraham, Zennie (February 17, 2010). "City Brights: Zennie Abraham : AC Transit Bus Fight - YouTuber iyannaw08 talks about video". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 3 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-20.
  14. ^ "Thomas Bruso aka Epic Beard Man Interviewed". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-08-13.
  15. ^ a b c Yoo, Aileen (March 2, 2010). "The obsession with AC Transit brawler, a.k.a. Epic Beard Man". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 5 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
  16. ^ a b Maas, Nathan (February 26, 2010). "I Am a Motherfucker: Part One". YouTube. Archived from the original on 8 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-28.
  17. ^ "Epic Beard Man Interview". YouTube. February 19, 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-20.
  18. ^ "AC Transit Says Bus Driver Followed Protocol During Fight on Bus in Oakland". KRON 4. February 19, 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-28.[dead link]
  19. ^ Maas, Nathan (February 26, 2010). "I Am a Motherfucker: Part Two". YouTube. Archived from the original on 8 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-28.
  20. ^ I Am Homeless (Epic Beard Man Update) on YouTube
  21. ^ Zierlein, Lance (February 19, 2010). "The Z Report". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 24 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-20.

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