1 dead, suspected shooter arrested in Atlanta bus hijacking

One person is dead and a suspected gunman has been arrested after he allegedly hijacked a bus in Atlanta and led police on a chase on Tuesday, the second of two serious crimes to rock the city in succession, officials said.

Police were just finishing up a briefing after three people and a gunman were shot in a food court at a downtown shopping center when a An emergency call about a bus came in around 4:30 p.m., said Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum.

An officer who responded to the call arrested the shooter, who then “forced the bus driver to drive off,” Schierbaum said.

There were 17 people on the Gwinnett County Transit bus, including the driver, while police pursued the vehicle through three different jurisdictions in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties before it was disabled and trapped by a large BearCat police vehicle, officials said. Passengers then disembarked.

Police are investigating the hijacking of a Gwinnett Line bus in Atlanta on Tuesday.WXIA

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens praised emergency dispatchers and police for “trying to deal with a gunman who was pointing a gun at a bus driver’s head and saying, ‘Don’t stop that bus or something worse will happen.'”

“I mean, it seems like a movie,” Dickens said, adding that without police intervention, things could have been worse.

The person believed to have been shot could not be identified by police pending notification of next of kin. Dickens said the circumstances under which the person was killed are not fully known.

The man arrested was 39-year-old Joseph Greer, who was last seen from Stone Mountain, a city east of Atlanta, police said.

“We don’t yet know” why he hijacked the bus, Schierbaum said, but added that Greer is a convicted felon who has been arrested 19 times.

According to Atlanta police and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, an investigation is currently underway.

It was not immediately clear whether Greer had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

During the chase, one person called 911, but the call was disconnected, police said. Another relative of a person on the bus called police and said they had received text messages from that passenger, and then someone on the bus called 911, and the line remained open, police said.

Schierbaum said Atlanta police, as well as police in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties and the Georgia State Patrol, are being continuously provided with information.

“You saw the collective effort and dedication of the police today working to save lives, free hostages and ensure this ends,” Schierbaum said.

Officials reported that earlier in the day, a gunman shot and killed three people in the food court at Peachtree Center Mall in downtown Atlanta before he himself was shot and wounded by a police officer.

The shooting occurred around 2:15 p.m., just over two hours before the emergency call about the bus came in.

The suspected 34-year-old shooter is said to have had a “brief altercation” with one of the victims, then pulled out a gun and shot the person, Schierbaum said. He then shot the other two people.

The suspect in this shooting has already been arrested eleven times, police and the mayor said in a press conference on Tuesday evening after the hostage-taking on the bus was over.

“When the chief explained to you that one of the perpetrators was arrested 11 times and another 19 times, you were talking about people who should not have been on the street with weapons,” Dickens said.

“I think mental health will play a role in some of these cases, but we’re talking about too many guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t own guns,” he said.

The bus driver who was robbed at gunpoint was shocked, said Schierbaum.

“He had a very harrowing experience,” Schierbaum said. “His dedication to the passengers on board will, I think, be recognized later in due course, but I think he is also a hero today because he found himself in a very dangerous situation.”