One killed, seven injured as hijacked L.A. transit bus crashes

The Associated Press
Thursday May 03, 2001

LOS ANGELES — A shooting suspect hijacked a transit bus Wednesday and held a gun to the driver’s head as police chased the bus through downtown until it crashed into a minivan. The van’s driver was killed and seven people were injured, police said. 

Officers shot at the suspect as he fled the bus and quickly took him into custody as he attempted to carjack a sedan. He was taken to a hospital but it was not immediately clear whether he was shot or injured some other way. 

The pursuit through more than a dozen city blocks ended with the bus broadsiding the minivan at an intersection and pushing it violently into a parked United Parcel Service van. The bus veered onto a sidewalk and into more than a dozen cars in a parking lot. The bus driver, the five passengers on the bus and the UPS driver were injured. The minivan driver was a woman in her 30s, police said. 

The five-minute chase began after police detectives heard gunfire and saw a man running with a gun on Eighth Street near Columbia Avenue about 4:20 p.m., said Officer Jason Lee. 

The suspect had allegedly just shot a man, said Sgt. John Pasquariello. 

Detectives attempted to arrest the man, but he got onto the Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus, apparently at a bus stop, Lee said. 

Police said the suspect held a semiautomatic handgun to the driver’s head and forced her to drive. “With a gun to her head, it was clear the driver was scared. She was doing whatever she could to stay alive,” Pasquariello said. 

Two witnesses said they followed the pursuit in their car and saw the suspect with his arm clenched around the driver’s neck. “It was like they were filming a movie,” said one of the witnesses, Wilma Jackson. 

Another witness, Rolando Hernandez Gandara, 21, said he watched as the bus plowed into the parking lot and packages scattered from the rear-ended UPS truck. Packages of flour burst and left a white trail along the sidewalk. “It kept going, like an earthquake, it just kept going,” Gandara said. “There was stuff flying everywhere.” 

The bus driver, 48-year-old Ema Gutierrez of Los Angeles, was taken to County-USC Medical Center with a broken nose, a broken collarbone and possibly a broken right knee, said MTA spokesman Jose Ubaldo said. She was in serious condition. 

The UPS driver, a 32-year-old man, was in stable condition at California Hospital Medical Center, hospital spokeswoman Sylvia Robledo said. He complained of a headache and abrasions.