Gunman in Georgia hijacks commuter bus, leaves one dead

Video caption, Atlanta police pursue hijacked bus carrying passengers

  • Author, Brandon Drennon
  • Role, BBC News
  • Report of Washington, D.C.

A Georgia man hijacked a commuter bus, held the driver and 17 passengers at gunpoint and led a trail of police cars on a miles-long chase through Atlanta traffic Tuesday.

The suspect, Joseph Grier, 39, was arrested after a Georgia State Patrol trooper fired shots into the engine compartment of the bus, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said. The police also threw spike strips on the road to obstruct the bus.

Authorities said the hijacking happened after Grier — a convicted felon whose criminal record includes 19 arrests — got into an argument with another bus passenger, who pointed a gun at him.

Grier then pulled the gun away from the man, shot him and ordered the bus driver to flee, according to state investigators.

The injured bus passenger later died in hospital.

The suspect is accused of having pointed “a gun at a bus driver’s head while telling him: ‘Don’t stop this bus, otherwise worse will happen,'” the mayor of Atlanta told the press, Andrew Dickens.

As the bus zigzagged through streets and crashed into other anxious cars, passengers called and texted loved ones and authorities for help.

Grier faces one count of murder, 14 counts of kidnapping, 13 counts of aggravated assault and one count of first-degree motor vehicle hijacking. He is also charged with one count each of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a firearm or knife while committing or attempting to commit certain crimes.

Johnny Gilbert said his wife called him from the bus and told him Grier had been acting “a little crazy.”

Fearing she would be shot, he asked her to put the phone down and “stay still,” Mr. Gilbert told CNN.

Police said a passenger on the bus made an emergency call and stayed on the line with them, which contributed to the suspect’s arrest.

Dennis Durham, an eyewitness, told news station WSB-TV that the bus ride was chaotic. The bus “just ran over a lot of these cars and caused them to collide.”

“I saw so many police cars in so many different areas that my head was spinning.”

Police used several tactics to disable the bus, including placing an armored vehicle next to the bus to limit the bus’s ability to maneuver, police said.

Finally, the bus stopped in Stone Mountain, a suburb of Atlanta.

The passengers got off the bus and Mr. Grier was arrested.

Police said a joint investigation will be conducted by the Atlanta Police Department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The carjacking incident was the second violent shooting in Atlanta on Tuesday.

Hours earlier, a man shot and injured three people at a popular food court.

Grier, who was outside the food court at the time, was interviewed by reporters about the shooting, mentioning his criminal history and mental health, the Associated Press reported.

He seemed agitated and described himself as a “snitch” for explaining what he had witnessed.

“I’m bipolar, I’ll tell you all that, and I’m off my medication for about two weeks,” he said, according to the news agency.

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