A passenger on a city bus attacked the driver, then hijacked the vehicle in northeast Washington DC, continuing for several blocks until he careered into a service station and fatally struck a pedestrian, police said.

Police officers swarmed the bus moments after the pedestrian was struck. A witness said the officers pointed guns at the windshield as the driver revved the engine, then the officers stormed the vehicle and overpowered the man.

"The suspect appeared to be very violent and resistant," Police Chief Cathy Lanier said, explaining that he fought as officers took him into custody and that he was taken to a hospital once restrained. "It's a bizarre incident."

The names of the suspect and the victim were not immediately made public and police said they were busy sorting through witness statements. They said the attack appeared random, by a man either distraught or possibly under the influence of drugs. Lanier said the suspect is known to officers and might have assaulted a woman earlier today.


The hijacking unfolded in a matter of few minutes. Police described a frightening sequence of events that began about 10.30 am local time, when a man armed with 18cm-long shears or pliers began beating the driver as about 10 passengers scrambled out of the back of the bus.

Lanier said the assailant boarded the No. 6102 bus in the 3800 block of Jay St NE as the bus was on its way to Lincoln Heights. The man stood next to the driver, who asked him, "Do you want to take a seat?" Lanier recounted in an interview. "He was just standing there staring."

At the next stop, at Kenilworth Terrace, Lanier said, the man attacked the driver. He did not use the pliers-like device in the assault, Lanier said. A police spokesman said the driver was not seriously injured.

The driver hit his emergency call button - which notifies Metro's control centre, triggers GPS tracking of the bus and notifies police - and then he, too, escaped. Lanier said the suspect then "shut the door, hopped in the seat and drove away".

The man drove to Minnesota Ave, where he headed north for several blocks before jumping a curb and going across the parking lot of a Crown service station near Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave. The area is typically crowded with motorists and is a business corridor, a juncture for a large Metro stop and a gateway into Maryland.

A woman, who was said to know a victim, is comforted by a man near the crime scene. Photo / AP
A woman, who was said to know a victim, is comforted by a man near the crime scene. Photo / AP

Police said the bus jumped a second curb and hit a man walking across the parking lot. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

David Stephen, a spokesman for the Amalgamated Transit Local 689, which represents most of Metro's train and bus operators and other workers in the system, said attacks on bus drivers have increased over the past few years. He said he had not spoken with the driver, and declined to provide any information about him.

In 2015, federal authorities noted a 37 per cent increase in assaults on drivers, and Metro implemented a pilot programme to train drivers in dealing with difficult passengers in the most troubled areas of the bus system, which covers a total 3885 sq km in the District, Maryland and Virginia.

Several attacks last year gained wide attention, including a shooting in which a gunman standing in front of a bus disabled it and then fired through the windshield, aiming at another man who had a gun. A passenger pepper-sprayed a driver in another instance, and a 14-year-old attacked a driver with a stun gun. More commonly, drivers are spat on, slapped and punched, or rocks are thrown at buses.