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The Boy Who Loves Trains

 

Early Years

Darius was born on March 28, 1965 in Brooklyn to Elizabeth and Samuel McCollum. He is an only child. His parents are in their nineties and are no longer able to care for Darius.

At a very young age, Darius became fixated with trains. When he was an infant, his mother would often take him on the subway to calm him much like parents take their infants for car rides to rock them to sleep. By the age of 5, Darius had memorized the entire New York City subway system. His knowledge of every stop and each route of every train was flawless. He was fascinated by all aspects of the New York City transit system.

Despite his genius understanding of the New York City transit system, he did not excel in school. In second grade, he was placed in the Special Education Program of the New York City Department of Education. He struggled socially with his classmates and although the school work was not overly demanding his mind only wanted to focus on the trains, buses and large engines.

One winter day, when Darius was 12 years old, there was a heavy snowfall. School was not cancelled, but only one other student made it to class. The teacher gave Darius and the other boy each a puzzle to complete and she left the classroom. While Darius was hunched over his puzzle deep into his assignment, the other student went to the teacher's desk and removed a pair of scissors. He snuck up behind Darius and plunged the scissors into Darius' back, repeatedly opening and closing the scissors. Darius was bleeding on the floor of the classroom when the teacher returned. Due to the snow, the ambulance was delayed. Darius lay in a pool of blood, unconscious.

He spent over two weeks in the hospital and endured two surgeries to repair his punctured lungs. From that moment on, Darius hated school. The teaching staff was completely unaware of the anxiety attacks that would plague young Darius when he entered the classroom. The child that had stabbed him remained his classmate. Unable to handle his fears, Darius snuck off to the subway system to hide. Each morning, Darius would leave his home pretending to his parents that he was headed to school, but in reality he went straight to the subway.

Darius would find solace in the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) railyard. He would tell anyone who questioned his constant presence in the subway station that he was a family member of an employee. The MTA employees loved him. He would volunteer to sweep trains, clean their work areas, get them food and help them with whatever they needed. His mother would often go to the railyard herself and beg the workers to send him back to school but it was to no avail. Darius had found his safe haven. On his birthday and at Christmas, the workers gave him gifts including uniforms, keys, flashlights, hardhats, just about anything MTA.

Darius became such a proficient helper, that he would often do the work of the MTA employee, allowing the employee to absent him or herself. Darius became so adept at the tasks, that the employees quickly taught Darius how to move the subway trains in and out of the yard. At thirteen years old, Darius was operating subway trains on a daily basis.


Jail Time

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Soon Darius was manning the controls of subway trains on scheduled routes with passengers aboard.  In 1980, at the age of 15, Darius was arrested when he drove an in-service New York City subway E train.  Darius was covering the MTA employee's shift so that the employee could visit his girlfriend.  A passenger grew concerned when she saw young Darius sitting alone in operator's cab.  The train was stopped and Darius was arrested. 

The news of the young "subway bandit" was sensational.  Through all of it, Darius never revealed to the authorities that he was working for the MTA employee.  As a result of the arrest, Darius was adjudicated a felon.  His dream of becoming an employee for the MTA came to end.  For a short period, Darius returned to school but it did not last long. The school identified Darius as a truant and incorrigible. His failure to "reform" resulted in his confinement in a mental hospital. It was there that Darius was given heavy doses of anti-psychotic medications that left him drooling in the corner. He was diagnosed with severe depression and psychosis. His year-long hospitalization ended when his parents learned that Darius was being brutally sexually assaulted in the facility.

Within days of his release from the hospital, Darius returned to the subway. His MTA friends were so pleased that he had not revealed their complicit activity that they welcomed him back into the fold.

Of course, during his year away Darius had grown tall. He was now big enough to learn how to drive a MTA bus. Darius quickly became the unofficial operator of the buses that were in need of washing. He was soon operating the scheduled routes.

His return to the transit world was a violation of his probation and he was sent to jail. His incarceration was followed by another commitment to a mental facility with no real diagnosis or viable treatment. Thus, began years of turnstile incarceration.

Ultimately in 1989, Darius was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. His treating psychiatrist opined that Darius' "savant abilities" of the New York City transit system coupled with his lack social skills and poor academic performance impaired his judgement and intense therapy would be helpful. Darius never received any treatment. There was and is no such treatment available to incarcerated defendants.

For the past forty years, Darius has been in and out of jail for charges involving transportation. He has never been arrested for a crime of violence. He has never injured anyone. He has been banned from all MTA rail yards, bus depots and other official offices. In one of his many efforts to find employment, Darius volunteered at the New York City Transit Museum, a job he loved. But he was fired when his boss ultimately realized his identity.

Following 911, Darius volunteered his knowledge and skill to make the New York City subway system safe. Darius led a team of federal agents, New York City Intelligence Detectives and New York State Police through the subway system identifying locations where intruders were able to enter without being detected. Darius was actually incarcerated at the time. He was taken in shackles from his prison cell at Riker's Island by teams of federal agents to tour the subway system assisting law enforcement with their efforts. For his contributions, Darius received no benefit. Instead, the Department of Corrections was notified that Darius was "easily manipulated" and a "terrorist could gain valuable knowledge from him." As a result, Darius was placed into solitary confinement.


Current Legal Battle

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In November 2015, Darius was again arrested. He was alleged to have taken a Greyhound bus for a joyride through New York City. A video of the escapade, in deed, shows a very happy Darius carefully

maneuvering the streets of the city. He was ultimately arrested at gunpoint by five New York City police officers. For the next two years, his defense attorney advocated for mental health court but the prosecution insisted he was dangerous criminal needing to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

During the 2015 arrest processing, Darius' hearing aids were lost. Darius appeared in court unable to hear and participate in the proceedings. Over the defense counsel's objection, the Judge remanded Darius to the Department of Corrections to await trial. For an entire year, while behind bars, Darius was without hearing aids. Jail is dangerous for Darius. He is a target and the inability to hear makes it worse. Moreover, despite vocal and passionate argument by defense counsel, no accommodations were made for his hearing disability in the courtroom.

After a bitter legal battle, the prosecutors for the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office conceded that Darius was not a criminal. He was permitted to plead not responsible by mental defect. But only after the plea was taken did the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office advocate vigorously that Darius was dangerously mentally ill.

Two independent psychiatrists testified that Darius does not have a Dangerous Mental Disorder and he is not Mentally Ill under the New York Statute. Both doctors concluded that he was on the Spectrum and would excel in a community setting with wraparound (all inclusive) services. They described him at times as childlike with a minor stutter and an easy going demeanor.

In contrast, the prosecutor portrayed Darius as monster. The District Attorney paid a psychiatrist to testify that Darius was so dangerous that he must be committed to a locked psychiatric facility for the criminally insane. The Kings County District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez, claims to be progressive and compassionate when dealing with mental health issues. He has failed miserably.  

Unfortunately for Darius and all of us, the Judge agreed with their hired gun. The Judge reasoned that although Darius has never hurt anyone, has never acted violently, has never even damaged property, the law is unclear as to what "dangerously mentally ill" actually means.

The Judge has committed Darius to hell on earth–Mid Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center. The facility is notorious for abuse, neglect and danger. Patients are doped up with massive amounts of narcotics. They are restrained and shackled. Straight jackets and isolation are common methods of punishment. It is morally reprehensible that a kind and gentle non-violent man could be committed to such a vile place.

Darius could potentially spend the rest of his life behind the locked doors of this asylum.

An appeal is pending.

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Despite his years of incarceration, Darius remains a kind and gentle person. He is the boy who loves trains.