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Bus Attack Press Conference

Aired October 1, 2002 - 10:17   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Live to Fresno County, California, the scene of this very bizarre attack on board of a Greyhound bus.
Let's listen in to the sheriff's department.


LT. MARGARET MIMS, FRESNO COUNTY, SHERIFF'S DEPT.: Just to recap, just before 9:00 last night, there was a passenger onboard a northbound Greyhound bus going through Fresno County. They were traveling at highway speeds, and a passenger on the bus got up from his seat near the back, walked up the center aisle, attacked the driver of the bus with a pair of scissors, stabbing him, wounding him very seriously in the neck.

The struggle continued. The driver tried to keep the bus on the roadway. However, he was not able to. They left the interstate, wound up in a cotton field, the bus tipping over on its side. There were two fatalities as a cause of the wreck. The suspect was still on the scene when officers arrived.

The highway patrol, California Highway Patrol, were the first on the scene. The suspect stood up. The passengers on the bus who had been able to pull most of themselves out pointed out the suspect. He tried to run, but he was apprehended by the California Highway Patrol. He is in custody. He has been identified as Arturo Topia Martinez, age 27, from the Los Angeles area. He's described as a transient.

We don't have a firm reason about why he attacked the bus driver. And he has been booked in the Fresno County jail on charges of two counts of murder as a result of the two fatalities, one count of attempted murder, that's the attack on the bus driver, and further counts and crimes will be reviewed with our district attorney's office.

QUESTION: Had he told you anything at all about why he did what he did?

MIMS: He has told us several stories about why he did what he did, and there are a lot of things we have to consider. We're looking at under the influence of narcotics or drugs or alcohol; we're looking at maybe some mental health issues. We're looking at maybe he's and covering up for some other crimes. So we don't know yet why, we don't have a good reason why, and he's not made that clear to us.

QUESTION: How long a period of time did it take from the time the attack started until the time it ended up in the field? MIMS: It happened very quickly. The -- he immediately stabbed the driver, and so the actually going off the road happened very quickly, in fact, too quickly for any of the passengers to take action on their own to try and control the suspect.

QUESTION: Do you have the names of the female victims in the accident?

MIMS: We don't have an identity on the female victims, the fatalities in the wreck. They just were removed from the accident maybe an hour ago. What's going on now is a tow truck is in the process of trying to upright the bus, where we'll look underneath, what's been covered up, to see if we can find any more evidence, and then it will be taken to a facility where we'll be able to go over it in detail to look for additional items inside that bus that may give us a clue as to why this happened.

The question was, was there information given to the passengers about why? No information was given, because we still really don't know why. We're certainly available to them if they contact us, to fill them in when we do know more.

QUESTION: The country is very jittery about terrorism. Is that something that may have went through the mind of the responding law enforcement officials?

MIMS: Of course, it did. It went through our minds. It was certainly something we had to consider, be ready for and plan, if that were the case, what would we do? However, it was pretty apparent in very short order, that it was not a terrorism issue; it was a man on the bus who committed a violent act for still an unknown reason.

QUESTION: Were the weapons found?

MIMS: The weapon -- it took a little while to figure out what the weapon was. It ended up being a pair of scissors, and during a search of the bus, we did, in fact, find a pair of scissors near the driver's area of the bus inside, and it's been confirmed that that was the weapon used by the suspect.

Next we're going to need to talk more in-depth to the driver. His injuries prevented us from getting a good interview with him last night, and so it will important to get a good interview with him, and also to investigate the suspect's prior history. We've got to take a look and see if there is anything that would give us a clue as to what would cause him to do the crime he committed last night. And in the third part is still the evidence gathering. And that will happen when we take the bus in, go over it and see if we can find anything else, maybe some belongings of the suspect.

QUESTION: It was your understanding there was no statement that he made before he made the attack, didn't say anything at all, was quiet?

MIMS: The witnesses tell us that there was no clue there was going to be any trouble onboard that bus. They said he simply got up out of his seat, went up the aisle and attacked the driver. There was no yelling, there was no threats. There was no argument before, just the direct attack on the driver.

QUESTION: Did you check through the suspect's background criminally, any mental history he might have? And what has that shown?

MIMS: We haven't checked that yet, so we don't know if that is an issue, but that's certainly something that we're going to have to do.

Right now, no. But earlier, there were. There were some officials that are helping us out, they're still helping us out, because we have to determine who got on and off this bus at the various stops, from the time it left Los Angeles to the time it got to this point.

QUESTION: We're heard earlier that he went into the bathroom...

KAGAN: We've been listening in to a news conference in Fresno, California, following a freak attack on a Greyhound bus that took place earlier today. A passenger, who just went up from the back of the bus to the front, cut the throat of the driver, who survived that attack, but lost control of the bus, which then careened off the road, off Interstate 5, into a cotton field. Two female passengers were killed in that rollover. The suspect is in custody. As much as officials know right now, he is a transient from the Los Angeles area. His name is Arturo Tapia Martinez. Why he did this is a big mystery. There's a number of stories he's been telling. Much more investigation.

Meanwhile, he is in custody. Right now, he faces two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.


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