BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Police are searching for a suspect who they say fatally shot an MTA bus driver in southeast Baltimore Thursday morning.
Baltimore Police said an officer on patrol in the 1200 block of East Fayette Street heard gunshots just after 10:30 a.m. The officer ran to the area where he believed the gunshots rang out and chased a suspect. However, the suspect was able to flee the area.
When the officer returned to the location, he found a 51-year-old male bus driver suffering from gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead on the scene by medics.
MTA Maryland identified the bus driver as Marcus Parks, Sr.
Detectives investigating the shooting learned that the victim and suspect were arguing when the suspect pulled out a gun and shot the bus driver.
The bus was empty at the time of the shooting, Baltimore Police Department spokesperson Donny Moses said.
Watch Below: Baltimore Police Give Update On Fatal Shooting Of Bus Driver
"Everyone had just gotten off of the bus," Moses said. The suspect tried to get onto the bus at which time the bus driver told him that no passengers were allowed on the bus at that time."
That led to an argument between the two, during which the suspect grabbed the bus driver's bag and the driver chased him, police said. During that chase, the suspect shot the bus driver.
A witness told WJZ he saw the shooter standing over top of the bus driver when he pulled the trigger.
'A True Frontline Hero'
Transportation Secretary Greg Slater said in a statement he was "deeply saddened and troubled" by the shooting, adding Parks and all of their bus operators are "critical to providing essential travel throughout this pandemic."
"The safety of our employees and our riders is MDOT MTA's highest priority. We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of our family members, bus operator Marcus Parks. As a 20-year employee, Mr. Parks was a true frontline hero transporting essential workers during this COVID-19 health emergency. MDOT MTA is forever grateful for his commitment to the residents of Baltimore. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family in this most difficult time," said MDOT MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn.
Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted his condolences later Thursday afternoon, writing, "we are horrified by the senseless killing of an @MTAMaryland bus operator this morning--one of our frontline essential workers who was just doing his job."
Baltimore Mayor Jack Young said that Parks was a close friend.
"Mr. Parks was a personal friend and will be remembered as a dedicated public servant and a true hero to the residents of Baltimore City. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. May his memory be a blessing."
In a statement, State Sen. Bill Ferguson called the shooting "unconscionable."
"This is the height of cowardice and disregard for human life," he said. "The perpetrator of this terrible act must be apprehended and brought to justice as urgently as possible. There must be swift and certain consequences for violence like this, there cannot be excuses."
City Council President and Democratic mayoral nominee Brandon Scott also tweeted about the shooting, writing, "We must and will develop a strategy to deal w/ violent offenders & the flow of illegal guns into our city. We must also create a culture where folks don't turn to violence to settle conflicts."
Bob Wallace, an independent candidate for mayor, called the shooting "devastating."
"This is devastating for our [sic] city, but more importantly for Mr. Parks' family," Wallace said in a statement. "Statements of sympathy and grief are not enough. Meaningful and swift action is necessary to disrupt this overt pattern of violence. Mr. Parks was taken from us in the sanctity of his workplace in the mid-morning. Sadly, Mr. Parks is the latest in a spate of violence. We owe it to him and the many others who have been victims to act with a swift sense of urgency. Sadly, for too long, the lack of urgency has been all too apparent."
In the wake of the shooting, the Amalgamated Transit Union called for better protections for riders and drivers:
"Unfortunately this brutal killing is not an isolated incident. An ATU Tampa bus operator was stabbed to death last year. Countless numbers of transit workers are assaulted in many ways every year. With COVID many attacks have been over enforcing riders to wear masks. Others are the result of a fare dispute, but an alarming number happen just because someone wants to do violence to a bus driver.
"This tragic death comes as our members have been heroes providing critical transportation on the frontlines of this pandemic. Transit workers cannot do their job, and passengers cannot travel on public transportation in fear of being attacked and assaulted.
"ATU has been calling for passage of the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act. This legislation would provide more protection by requiring transit agencies to create risk reduction plans, install physical barriers to protect drivers, and retrofit or replace buses with left-side blind spots. Also, it would require transit agencies to report on a wider range of incidents. The bill has been gaining momentum on Capitol Hill, with 200 members of Congress co-sponsoring the bill. ATU encourages all Americans to call their Member of Congress to ask them to sponsor this bill."
Police have not provided a suspect description. Detectives are asking anyone who has information about this incident to call (410) 396-2100.
Anyone who wishes to remain anonymous can call Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7lockup.
for more features.