As he chatted with a passenger on a mostly empty 9-San Bruno bus just after 11 p.m., Muni operator Todd Westbrooks had no reason to believe that his March 11 shift would be any different than normal.
The sound of five gunshots quickly changed that.
Acting instinctively after hearing the gunfire, Westbrooks, 44, pulled his bus over to the intersection of San Bruno Avenue and Ward Street, where he found a 23-year-old man lying in pain on the street.
“There were groceries spilled out all over the place, but I couldn’t see any wounds,” said Westbrooks, a 5½-year Muni veteran. “But he told me he’d been shot, so I knew I had to act quickly.”
Westbrooks hopped back into his bus and angled the vehicle in a way that protected the shooting victim from oncoming traffic. He called Muni’s central control office, which immediately relayed the shooting to first responders.
Two minutes after the call, police officers showed up at the scene, and two minutes after that, the paramedics arrived. Fortunately for the shooting victim, the incident occurred just a few blocks away from a Fire Department station, so responders were able to transport the man to San Francisco General Hospital within moments of the incident.
The victim, whose identity has not been released, suffered multiple gunshot wounds, but his condition stabilized at the hospital. If it weren’t for Westbrooks’ effort, the man would have likely died from his wounds, police said.
“I just reacted,” said Westbrooks, who lives in San Leandro. “Me being a father, I would hope that someone would do the same thing to save my kid’s life. Anytime you can play a part in saving someone’s life — in giving them another lease on life — that’s a good feeling.”
Westbrooks worked for 11 years as a truck driver prior to joining Muni, an experience he credited with helping him react quickly to the shooting. Often times, truckers are the first people on the scene of car accidents, and Westbrooks said he has dealt with a few nasty crashes before.
Last week, Westbrooks was honored by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, for his heroic acts on March 11. He was given a recognition of commendation award, and transit agency chief Ed Reiskin said his actions went “above and beyond what you learn in operator training.”
In accepting the award, Westbrooks said he was just doing his job.
“You know, in a lot of ways, this was just another day in the life as a Muni operator,” Westbrooks said. “Our goal is always to make sure we keep everyone as safe as possible.”
No arrests have been made in the March 11 shooting, police say.