SEATTLE — Hours after a Metro driver was shot on a bus Monday, Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow Constantine and interim Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel tried to assure residents that mass transit is safe to use.
Constantine called it an “isolated incident.”
The driver suffered non-life threatening injuries after he was shot twice by a passenger in downtown Seattle shortly after 8:45 a.m. He was released from the hospital Monday afternoon.
Pugel said the suspect and two others attempted to board a bus on 3rd Avenue between Union and University Streets from the rear. When the driver told the suspect and the other two passengers to board at the front of the bus to pay their fare, the suspect started fidgeting and then approached the driver, shooting the 64-year-old man in the torso and cheek, Pugel said.
It is not known if the driver was in his seat when he was shot.
Officers were in the vicinity and responded quickly to the scene. The driver was transported with non-life threatening injuries to Harborview Medical Center.
Police said the suspect stayed on the bus for a short period of time after the shooting before fleeing southbound on University Street. As he was fleeing, Pugel said, the suspect — who is in his 30s or 40s — waived his weapon. Various witnesses told police they heard a “clicking” sound, but it is unknown at this time if the suspect actually opened fire on officers who responded to the scene.
He then boarded another bus and that was when officers fired on the suspect. He sustained life-threatening injuries and was transported to Harborview Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead.
Pugel defended officers’ actions of shooting the suspect while passengers were on board the bus, saying that officers were aware the suspect was a “dangerous, assaultive felon” and that they needed to stop a “lethal threat.” He said that officers believed the backdrop was “secure” enough for them to fire without harming any bystanders.
Pugel would not confirm the identity of the suspect, stating that police have been unable to fingerprint him while he is receiving medical care.
“There is still a lot we do not know,” Pugel said in regard to the particulars of the incident. He said that the entire incident unfolded in about seven minutes.
Pugel said two passengers from the second bus sustained minor injuries, mostly “bruising”; one police officer was treated for minor injuries believed to have been caused by breaking glass and another officer was treated for a medical condition.
Police are examining video footage from each of the buses involved, as well as reviewing witness video and surveillance footage from nearby businesses.
Paul Bachtel with King County Metro said there was no plan to arm bus drivers.