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" and a 50-year-old man named Michael, was recorded on video and later uploaded to the video hosting website YouTube, where it became a viral video. 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. The event raised concerns following a number of previous incidents involving violence on the public transport system in Oakland.
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, and an older white bearded man identified as Thomas Alexander Bruso, who later came to be referred to as "Epic Beard Man". The events in the bus were recorded by Iyanna Washington.
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 Michael near the rear of the bus. Exactly how the argument started is unclear, but the conversation quickly became heated, with Michael angrily asking Bruso, "Why's a brother got to spit shine your shoes?" Bruso has stated in later interviews that Michael tried to make his statement racial. Bruso then tells Michael 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 Michael to the front of the bus.
Much of their conversation is inaudible, and some riders discourage Michael from approaching Bruso, while others such as Washington encourage him to attack, saying "Say it again, Pinky!" When the verbal exchange starts to die down again, Michael 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!" Michael responds "What!?", turns around and walks back toward Bruso, and swings at Bruso. Bruso stands and punches Michael several times, knocking Michael to the floor. View of the men is lost briefly while Washington moves closer to the commotion; when view resumes, Bruso is shown with Michael, who is now bleeding from facial injuries, in his grasp. Bruso releases Michael, 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, Michael 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 Michael the use of her recording if he wishes to press charges, but Michael never acknowledges the offer, instead requesting an ambulance. Or as he put it, the "amber lamps".
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. Both men were treated at a local hospital for their injuries. Bruso underwent psychiatric evaluation at John George Psychiatric Pavilion in San Leandro. Neither man was arrested.
On February 17, 2010, Washington posted her own perspective of the events on YouTube. 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 Michael 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). 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." See @ (3:55—4:05). Washington also appeared in a local CBS news video interview giving her version of events.
Bruso was born in Michigan. 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. Despite several interviews where Bruso claims he served in Vietnam, a freedom of Information act request filed in Dec of 2012 shows that Bruso was kicked out of the US Army before finishing recruit training, His total service consisted of three months (Feb-May, 1969) and he never left Fort Polk.
Bruso was the subject of several interviews, among those one shot in San Francisco by KRON on February 19, 2010. Nathan 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.
Michael was interviewed on the set of San Francisco Bay Area radio talk show Dog House FM on February 22, 2010, where he issued an apology to AC Transit, the people who were present on the bus at the time of the incident, and to Bruso for his role in the fight. In the interview, he claimed that during the AC Transit event, he was intoxicated, but insisted that he was trying to calm down Bruso on the bus. Michael also said Bruso's accusations in one interview are not true (that Michael was a convicted murderer on parole; that Michael brandished a knife at Bruso).
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". 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.
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".
The action movie Bad Ass (starring Danny Trejo) inspired by Thomas Bruso was released on April 13, 2012.