Atlanta Bus Hijacked By Gunman Who Led Police On Wild 20-Mile Chase

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Atlanta bus hijacked
Photo Credit: "2005 Orion VII CNG 35 FT GCT Bus# B012" by Metro Atlanta Transit Productions is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/?ref=openverse.

Chaos erupted on Tuesday, when an Atlanta bus was hijacked by a gunman who led police on a 20-mile chase that resulted in the death of one person.

Transit bus hijacked in scenario straight out of the movies

The incident began around 4:30 p.m. when Atlanta police received multiple 911 calls about a man holding 17 hostages on a Gwinnett County Transit bus and reports of shots fired.

As the bus sped through traffic, one 911 call was abruptly disconnected, while another came from a relative of a passenger, who reported receiving alarming text messages. An open line from someone on the bus also provided critical information to police.

One of the victims called her husband while the bus was speeding down I-85, and he was able use the GPS tracker on her cell phone to see where the bus was going.

The man told his wife to hang up the phone, because the suspect shot someone during the call and the husband was afraid that he “might think she was calling the police.”

Responding officers identified the suspect as 39-year-old Joseph Grier, who was seen holding a gun to the bus driver’s head, and forcing him to put the pedal to the metal as multiple law enforcement agencies followed in pursuit.

The bus collided with several vehicles, including a Gwinnett County patrol car, as it weaved through traffic.

Chopper footage captured the bus flying down the highway, with other drivers desperately trying to get out of its way.

At one point, all lanes of the interstate were shut down as officers attempted various tactics to stop the bus, including an unsuccessful “PIT” maneuver.

Ultimately, the bus was brought to a halt around 20 miles away in Tucker, Georgia, thanks to the well placed deployment of spike strips.

One dead after Atlanta bus hijacked by gunman

Once stopped, passengers and the driver exited the bus with their hands raised to avoid being mistaken as the criminal who had kidnapped them.

First responders discovered a victim that had been shot by Grier who was incapacitated on the bus and administered CPR at the scene. The victim was transported to a local hospital but succumbed to their injuries.

The deceased individual’s identity has not been released, and no other injuries were reported among the passengers.

“Never thought about somebody getting on the bus in the afternoon and shooting somebody,” the husband of one of the victims told FOX5. “It was just gut-wrenching,”

Grier was taken into custody, and charges are pending. He has had a laundry list of violent criminal charges, has been arrested 19 times prior, and has done multiple stints in behind bars.

He went to prison in 2005 on charges of child molestation, then went right back inside on a 2008 aggravated assault charge.

Grier was arrested in 2010 for failure to register as a sex offender, and was sent to prison yet again in 2011 for aggravated assault.

He was arrested in 2017 for public indecency, battery-family violence, and violating his probation.

In 2019, he was nabbed by police twice, the first time for for criminal trespass, simple assault, and violation of a protective order, and the latter for aggravated battery and aggravated assault.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens commended the 911 dispatchers and police for their heroic efforts, stating that they were “trying to navigate what was a gunman with a gun to the head of a bus driver, saying, ‘Don’t stop this bus or else worse will happen.'”

“I mean, this seems like the movies,” Dickens said in reference to Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock’s 1994 bus hijacking thriller “Speed.”

Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum, said they still “don’t know” what motivated Grier to mimic the fictional movie.

Schierbaum also praised the coordinated efforts of law enforcement agencies in saving lives and rescuing hostages.

“You saw the collective effort and dedication of law enforcement working today to save lives, to rescue hostages, to make sure this ended,” he commented.

Shooter taken down by off-duty cop at Atlanta food court

Elsewhere in Atlanta on Tuesday, Schierbaum was busy dealing with another high-profile shooting in public.

A gunman opened fire at the Peachtree Center food court in downtown Atlanta around 2:15 p.m., injuring three people before being shot by an off-duty police officer who was working security at the time.

The suspect, a 34-year-old man who has not been publicly identified, had a “brief altercation” with one of the victims before drawing his weapon and shooting three people: a 47-year-old man from Grayson, a 69-year-old woman from East Point, and a 70-year-old woman from Atlanta.

The off-duty officer saved lives of others at the busy food court when he shot the suspect. All four individuals, including the suspect, were hospitalized, with two in critical condition, though they are expected to survive.

Mayor Dickens noted, “Had he not been there, things could have gotten worse.”

Schierbaum praised the cop, who he said “acted decisively, placed himself in danger and ended that threat to the community.”

The suspect in the food court shooting had a prior felony conviction for armed robbery and should not have possessed a firearm, according to Chief Schierbaum.

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