Police describe hijacking of D.C. Metrobus that led to deadly collision

May 4th, 2016 by Staff

 

(www.washingtonpost.com)

Details are emerging about fatal bus hijacking in Northeast Washington on May 3. Keith James Loving, 30, attacked a D.C. Metrobus driver, hijacked the bus and then hit and killed 40-year-old Anthony Payne in a gas station parking lot. (WUSA9)

A passenger on a Metrobus attacked the driver, then hijacked the vehicle in Northeast Washington on Tuesday morning, continuing for several blocks until he careened into a gas station and fatally struck a pedestrian, police said.

Police swarmed the bus moments after the pedestrian was hit. A witness said officers pointed guns at the windshield as the driver revved the engine, then they stormed the bus and overpowered him.

“The suspect appeared to be very violent and resistant,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said, explaining that he fought as officers took him into custody and that he was taken to a hospital once he had been restrained. “It’s a bizarre incident.”

The suspect was identified by police Tuesday night as Keith James Loving, 30, of Northeast. They said he was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

The victim was identified as Anthony Payne, 40, of Northwest.

A heavy police presence was observed in the area where a Metrobus allegedly hijacked by a passenger fatally struck a pedestrian in Northeast Washington on May 3, 2016. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Police said the attack appeared random, by a man either distraught or possibly under the influence of drugs. Lanier said the suspect is known to officers and might have assaulted a woman earlier Tuesday.

In a brief interview Tuesday night, a relative of the suspect’s, who declined to be identified by name for privacy reasons, said “he was a troubled guy.” The relative said “he also suffered from mental illness as well.”

Police described a frightening series of events starting about 10:30 a.m., when a man with seven-inch-long shears or pliers began beating the driver as about 10 passengers fled the bus through the back door.

Lanier said the assailant boarded the bus in the 3800 block of Jay Street NE as it was on its way to Lincoln Heights. The man stood next to the driver, who asked him, “Do you want to take a seat?” Lanier recounted in an interview. “He was just standing there staring.”

At the next stop, at Kenilworth Terrace, Lanier said, the man attacked the driver. He did not use the pliers-like device in the assault, Lanier said. A police spokesman said the driver was not seriously injured.

The driver hit his emergency call button — which notifies Metro’s control center, triggers GPS tracking of the bus and notifies police — and then he, too, escaped. Lanier said the suspect then “shut the door, hopped in the seat and drove away.”

The man drove to Minnesota Avenue, where he headed north for several blocks before jumping a curb and going across the parking lot of a Crown gas station near Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue. The busy area is a gateway into Maryland. Police said the bus jumped a second curb and hit Payne as he walked across the parking lot. He died at a hospital.

David Stephen, a spokesman for Amalgamated Transit Local 689, which represents most of Metro’s train and bus operators and other workers in the transit system, said attacks on bus drivers have increased over the past few years. He said he had not spoken with the driver and declined to give any information about him.

In 2015, federal authorities noted a 37 percent increase in assaults on drivers, and Metro implemented a pilot program to train drivers in dealing with difficult passengers in the most troubled areas of the bus system, which covers a total 1,500 square miles in the District, Maryland and Virginia.

Several attacks last year gained wide attention, including a shooting in which a gunman standing in front of a bus disabled it and then fired through the windshield, aiming at another man with a gun. A passenger pepper-sprayed a driver in another instance, and a 14-year-old attacked a driver with a stun gun. More commonly, drivers are spat on, slapped and punched, or rocks are thrown at buses.

“Our operators of our buses and trains, and at our stations, are the people who are on the receiving end of these activities,” Stephen said. “Whenever one of our people is in danger, that means the riders are in danger.”

The union official said protective shields, which can help prevent rider-driver contact, are being phased in. Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said 362 buses have shields, but the bus hijacked Tuesday lacked one.

The U6 bus, which ferries passengers between Kenilworth Terrace and Lincoln Heights, came to a stop on a curb next to a trash bin and a vacuum machine in the gas station’s back parking lot.

Darius Johnson was working at a front register at an adjacent Wendy’s when he heard a customer at the drive-through window yell, “Oh, my God, someone’s been hit.”

He and other workers ran out and saw police board the bus to arrest the suspect.

“It’s very tragic,” Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham said. “The victim was minding his own business and is now the victim of a homicide.”


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