An obsession apparently blended into reality Teen charged in subway spree

May 12, 1993|By New York Times News Service TC

NEW YORK -- Keron Thomas' obsession with subway trains did not begin in early childhood because in early childhood he was in Trinidad, and Trinidad does not have trains.

But, oh, when he got to New York.

He fell in love with the cruising, squealing monsters. Keron, 16, sometimes rode them just for fun. He hung around subway stations and learned the lingo of the motorman. He got his hands on the Transit Authority's book of rules and regulations and thumbed it until its cover was creased. He hung Transit Authority posters in his room.

He would stand for hours near the front window of his family's Brooklyn apartment, holding a piece of wood and pretending it was a brake handle, calling out the stations in a singsong voice so clear it made his mother's heart ache. "Next stop, Franklin."

All this made Jacquelin Thomas realize that maybe her son was becoming a bit obsessed, she said. Still, she said she was stunned when transit police arrived at her apartment Monday night and announced that they were arresting her son on charges of impersonating a subway motorman and taking thousands of passengers on a nearly 3 1/2 -hour ride Saturday.

"It's a very stupid thing he did," Ms. Thomas said. "I apologize for all the people, all the 2,000 people who rode the train. I very much feel sorry and I apologize for them."

Keron Thomas was charged as an adult with reckless endangerment, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of seven years, as well as forgery and criminal impersonation. He was being held last night pending arraignment.

Transit officials said Keron Thomas took command of the A train at 3:58 p.m. Saturday at the A line's terminus at 207th Street in Inwood, where the train's crews are assigned. Keron had called the station several hours earlier, giving the name and identification number of an off-duty motorman and offering to work overtime, transit officials said.

He arrived partly out of uniform, wearing blue jeans with a motorman's blue shirt. A dispatcher told him he was out of uniform but never required him to show his identification card, as is procedure.

Albert W. O'Leary, a spokesman for the transit police, said Keron also carried the regulation equipment for an operator, including a brake handle, a safety vest and a reverser key. Transit police believe he obtained the equipment by using a fake identification card at one of the authority's stores.

"It's not like getting behind the wheel of a Chevy and pulling away from the curb," he said. "He came almost fully equipped. You know the old saying: If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's a motorman."

Mr. O'Leary said Keron apparently had learned enough to operate the train by talking to motormen.

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