Local News

Virginia man charged in Greyhound bus hijacking

Posted February 4, 2011 10:24 a.m. EST
Updated February 4, 2011 10:53 p.m. EST

— Warren County authorities said Friday that they have charged a man in connection with the hijacking of a Greyhound bus along Interstate 85 late Thursday.

Jose Flores, 32, of 54 Eighth St. in Arlington, Va., faces one count of kidnapping, according to officials with the Warren County Detention Center. His bond hasn't been set yet, and he was scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 16.

Warren County Sheriff Johnny Williams said more charges are pending and federal agents are looking into whether Flores is a legal citizen. 

Passengers on the Greyhound bus from Richmond, Va., to Raleigh said that it wasn't clear what the suspect wanted.

"He was just irate, (didn't) make no sense," passenger Xavier Little said. "Nobody understood what was the purpose. He kept saying, 'I want to go to the courthouse, the nearest courthouse.'"

Passengers said that Flores had been on the bus since it left northern Virginia, but nothing untoward happened until the bus crossed the state line from Virginia into North Carolina.

Vance County Sheriff Peter White said that a passenger asked the driver a question, then pulled out a gun along I-85 South in Warren County. He also implied that he had a bomb.

"Out of nowhere this guy gets up from the back of the bus and walks to the front. He's irate and says, 'I want to get off,'" Little said.

Little said the driver told the man to sit down and he refused. The driver pulled the bus over, but the man said he did not want to get off the bus there.

"He let the bus stop and was like, 'If anybody has a problem and wants to get off, go to the back of the bus,'" Little said. "One passenger, he put the gun to her chest and was like, 'You ain't my first victim.'"

Passengers said they were frozen with fear.

"We were too scared. We didn't know if he was going to shoot us in the back of the head for getting off the bus," Little said. "He just kept yelling, 'Y'all got a problem? Y'all going to do something? I got nine shots, and I'll start killing right from the front.'"

Robert Fusco said the hijacker then pointed the gun at him and three other passengers in the front. "He talked about shooting us as an example," Fusco said.

Little said people started to climb out of the back emergency exit, with some getting injured while trying to escape.

All but two of the approximately three dozen passengers got out before the driver continued on, White said.

Warren County dispatchers said that a passing motorist noticed the situation, called 911

Quentin Hunt said he noticed something was wrong when he saw people climbing out of the bus. 

"My little brother brought it to my attention that somebody's leg was hanging out the window. So, I looked again and people started coming out of the windows," Hunt said. 

Hunt said one the passengers knocked on his window and asked him to call 911. When Hunt saw the bus turn around to leave, he felt compelled to do something. 

"I don't know what made me do it, but I started following the bus and stayed in close contact with 911," he said.

Hunt stayed with the bus until deputies and state troopers could catch up. When the bus stopped at a gas station in Henderson, officers with drawn guns surrounded it.

The driver and two passengers got away safely, and authorities used a stun gun on Flores before taking him into custody, White said. No one was injured, and a search turned up no explosives on the bus.

Greyhound sent another bus to take the passengers to Raleigh. Passengers said they were nervous to continue on their trips.

"I still got a long way to go, and these people expect me to get on another bus. Would you get on another bus after you had a gun stuck to your head?" Fusco said.

Fusco, who was traveling to visit family in Florida, called for increased security measures on buses.

"Something's got to be done. I could have been dead tonight," he said. "Anybody could walk up on here on a Greyhound bus and have a gun on them and without any (security checks). It might slow things down, but this ain't right."

Little agreed. 

"There's no sort of security as far as baggage to get on buses and it makes me feel like they need to get control of that," he said. 

Calls to Greyhound Friday morning have not been returned.