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Originally published January 20, 2012 at 8:14 PM | Page modified January 20, 2012 at 8:18 PM

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Suspect held in attack on bus driver

Bail was set at $25,000 Friday for a 40-year-old Seattle man accused of repeatedly punching a Metro Transit bus driver in the face and causing the bus to crash into a tree in the University District on Thursday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Bail was set at $25,000 Friday for a 40-year-old Seattle man accused of repeatedly punching a Metro Transit bus driver in the face and causing the bus to crash into a tree in the University District on Thursday morning.

The incident happened aboard the Route 49 bus in the 4300 block of 15th Avenue Northeast, according to Seattle police.

A King County District Court judge found probable cause to hold Eric Zeulner in the King County Jail on investigation of assault.

According to the statement of probable cause outlining the case against Zeulner, he boarded the bus just after 6 a.m. and paid $1.50 of the $2.50 fare.

The driver twice told Zeulner he had to pay the full fare and Zeulner began punching the driver in the face while the bus was moving, "causing the bus to veer off the road and head on into a tree," the document says.

Two other riders were on the bus at the time and later told police that after the crash, Zeulner began punching the driver in the face again, it says.

The two passengers flagged down a Seattle police officer who was driving near the scene, the document says. Zeulner was arrested and the bus driver, who suffered facial injuries and a broken right leg, was taken to the University of Washington Medical Center, the probable-cause document says. The bus sustained major front-end damage.

Zeulner had $2 on him when he was booked into the jail, the document says.

He was released from jail in November after serving about six months for assault and theft, court records show. He was wanted on a misdemeanor theft warrant when he was arrested Thursday.

The driver was at home recovering Friday, Metro spokeswoman Linda Thielke said.

Assaulting a transit driver is a felony. On average, a Metro driver is injured in an assault or threatened with a weapon about once a month.

Under Metro's operating rules, drivers are instructed to ask once for fare payment, but not to physically compel it or cause a confrontation.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Mike Lindblom and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654

or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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