The chaos that over the last few weeks has plagued Metro-North Railroad landed squarely on Fairfield's doorstep Tuesday morning when a New York man -- later identified as a Metro-North engineer in training -- was charged with sexually assaulting a female passenger onboard a train.
The man, identified as Manny Ramos, 34, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was captured about 9:30 a.m. a short distance away from the downtown train station on the Unquowa Road overpass, which links the stairways to the east- and westbound passenger platforms.
Before Ramos' arrest, however, the station was awash in officers from the Fairfield and Metropolitan Transportation Authority police forces, dispatched to investigate the assault report received by Fairfield police at 9:12 a.m.
Some confusion ensued when the suspect was initially reported to have boarded a westbound train after leaving the 7:35 a.m. eastbound train from Grand Central, which arrived in Fairfield about 9 a.m. Reacting to that report, officers rushed to the Southport station, the next westbound stop for the train, where it was stopped and searched.
Meanwhile, officers who continued to search for the suspect back at the downtown depot located Ramos on the Unquowa bridge and took him into custody. He was turned over to MTA officers -- who have jurisdiction over the incident since it took place on a train -- for questioning. Charges are pending.
Sources indicate the sexual assault took place in the second-to-last car on the eastbound train shortly before it arrived at the Fairfield station. The train was held in Fairfield about 54 minutes while police searched for Ramos before it was allowed to continue to New Haven.
MTA police sources said the female passenger reported waking up to discover Ramos standing in front of her and masturbating. Police recovered semen from the incident to test for a match with Ramos, according to the sources.
The investigation by MTA police is continuing, but Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said Ramos was immediately suspended without pay, pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings. She said the MTA conducts background checks on all new employees and there were no past incidents in Ramos' file.
Ramos was hired as a coach cleaner in October 2011 and has been in the engineer training program since last March.
As for the role of local police, Fairfield Chief Gary MacNamara said, "Our role was to assist the MTA."
MacNamara said providing security at the town's train three train stations is shared by his department and the MTA at the downtown and Southport stations, and by the town, MTA and State Police at the Fairfield Metro station.
"We patrol the lots, and we have special police officers on duty at varying times," MacNamara said. The MTA, he said, has jurisdiction over the platforms and train tracks.