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One person fatally shot when hijacked Atlanta bus leads to police chase

One dead after hijacked bus chase in Atlanta
One person dies after hijacked commuter bus leads to police chase in Atlanta 02:04

Atlanta police said one person was fatally shot on a commuter bus Tuesday afternoon that led officers on a chase for miles from the city into neighboring suburbs, with television news footage showing it barreling through rush hour traffic and striking several vehicles.

News helicopters followed the dramatic pursuit of the Gwinnett County Transit bus, which police said took off after officers responded to a report of gunfire on a bus and a possible hostage situation just after 4:30 p.m. near downtown Atlanta.

One fatally shot after bus hijacked in Atlanta, leads police on wild pursuit
A Gwinnett County commuter bus sits on the road where it was stopped in Smoke Rise, Georgia, on June 11, 2024. Ben Gray / AP

"Our initial call was of a gunman on the bus, that was holding hostages, and possibly there had been a discharged weapon," Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said in a Tuesday evening news conference.

An officer arrived about a minute after the initial 911 call and "confronted the perpetrator, that then forced the bus driver to drive off," sparking the chase, Schierbaum said.

Atlanta police said the bus was eventually stopped miles away in neighboring DeKalb County. The suspect, identified by Schierbaum as 39-year-old Joseph Grier, was taken into custody. Grier, a convicted felon with 19 prior arrests, was armed with a handgun, Schierbaum said.

One of the people aboard the bus died of an apparent gunshot wound, Schierbaum disclosed. There was no word of any other injuries to passengers or the driver. 

Schierbaum said that there were a total of 17 people aboard the bus during the pursuit, including the driver. One of the 911 calls that dispatchers received from the bus remained open during the entirety of the chase, Schierbaum said, helping authorities bring it to an end.

"It was that information that our call takers and dispatchers were hearing that was fed initially to the Atlanta Police Department, and then to the Georgia State Patrol, and then our partners at Gwinnett … to help craft an end to our hostage situation," Schierbaum said.

John Gilbert of suburban Dacula said his wife, Paulette, takes the bus to and from downtown Atlanta for work three days a week. He said she called him from the bus and said one man had shot another man. Gilbert told his wife to get off the phone because he didn't want the man to think she was calling police and shoot her.

Then he waited for 40 or 45 minutes without knowing what was going on before his wife finally called him once she was off the bus.

"I felt like I had a hole in me," Gilbert said through tears. "I'm just glad she's alright."

Television news footage showed the bus striking multiple vehicles and crossing onto the wrong side of a road with police in pursuit. At one point, a police vehicle appears to get in front of the bus, but it kept going.

The pursuit ended when the bus went off the roadway, DeKalb County Police Chief Mirtha Ramos told reporters. Authorities then used a BearCat to "immobilize" the bus, she added. 

News photos showed an armored police SWAT vehicle squarely blocking the front of the bus, which was also flanked by a firetruck. Afterward, a lighted digital sign above the bus windshield still read: "EMERGENCY" and "CALL POLICE 911."  

The initial 911 call came just as Schierbaum and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens had finished briefing reporters on a shooting at a food court in a downtown Atlanta in which they said a man shot three people before he was shot by an off-duty police officer. The suspect and the three victims were all taken to hospitals but were expected to survive.

Schierbaum said investigators do not believe there is a link between the food court shooting and the bus hijacking.

"Today has been a very active day, but let me be clear, we're talking about gun violence that is a result of too many people having guns in their hands," Dickens said. He added that it's possible that mental health issues may have played a role, but added that "you're talking about too many guns in the hands of individuals that should not have guns, too many guns on our streets, too many guns in our homes, too many guns in our schools and buses, etc."

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