Friday, May 11, 2007

CTA Shooting - One Student Killed, Four Hurt

By Angela Rozas and Emma Graves Fitzsimmons
Tribune staff reporters

May 10, 2007, 10:28 PM CDT

A young man who boarded a CTA bus in Chicago's Roseland neighborhood opened fire Thursday afternoon, killing one student and injuring four others, officials said.

The man got on an eastbound 103rd Street bus at Halsted Street and pulled a gun as the bus neared Lowe Avenue about 3:15 p.m., police said. He opened fire, wounding three girls and two boys, between the ages of 16 and 18, who were students at nearby Julian High School.

The bus driver pulled over, and the gunman got off the bus and ran southbound, police said. Three of the wounded students were taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where one boy, Blair Holt, who had been shot in the chest, died Thursday night, hospital officials said. Two girls were in fair condition.

One student was taken to Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park and another to Roseland Community Hospital, a Chicago Fire Department spokeswoman said. Their injuries were not believed to be life threatening, police said.

Police said they did not believe it was a random shooting and were reviewing footage from a camera inside the bus.

"We have very good information, and we're confident we'll be able to identify him," Assistant Deputy Police Supt. Eugene Williams said Thursday evening.

Police said officers would fan out across the South Side neighborhood on Friday, and school officials planned to have additional security and counseling staff at Julian

A man heading home from work said he was driving near 103rd and Lowe as the passengers fled the bus.

"I saw a bunch of kids leaving the bus . . . they looked scared," said Oscar Hamon. "Everyone jumped off the bus running scared and crying. I knew something was wrong."

CTA officials were working with police in the investigation, including providing the camera footage. Each bus has at least four cameras on board, said CTA spokeswoman Sheila Gregory.

"The security cameras have proven very helpful in the past when we've investigated incidents," she said.

News of the shooting spread during a student fashion show Thursday night at Julian, which is about a mile from the site of the shooting.

School Principal William Harris said he was receiving calls from parents, but would not comment because he did not have confirmed information about the shooting. He did emphasize that the shooting did not happen at the school.

Many Julian students take the 103rd Street bus home, said sophomore Marissa Brown.

"Everybody takes the bus home," she said. "They were just going home after school."

Speculation swirled about the cause of the shooting among students and neighborhood residents. Some students said there was a fight at the school on Wednesday. Others lamented what they said was an ongoing gang feud in the school, while others said it was in the neighborhood.

Sophomore Dimico Galloway said one of the victims is a friend and he saw her shortly before her last class ended before 3 p.m. He said the high school was safe, and that fights can happen at any school.

Mary Hayes received a call Thursday afternoon from her cousin, who was seated on the bus next to one of the victims. Her cousin, a freshman at Julian, said her friend had been shot, and Hayes said she heard screaming and chaos in the background. She went to the scene, looking for her cousin.

There are ongoing feuds at the high school and general violence in the neighborhood, she said.

"It's just really sad," said Hayes, 20. "You can't even come home from school. Every day it's really upsetting. There is just so much violence."
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

TTA Buses Evacuated After Bomb Threat

Beth Velliquette, Chapel Hill Herald

Triangle Transit Authority buses were ordered to pull over to the side of the road and passengers told to get off the buses and move 1,000 feet away Friday morning after someone called in a bomb threat.

In Chapel Hill, there were two TTA buses running, and both happened to be on East Franklin Street, one heading east and one heading west, when the order came over the intercoms of the buses.

Franklin Street between Raleigh and Boundary streets was closed and traffic was rerouted around the buses for more than an hour until the buses could be searched and given the all-clear.

Brenda Cobbs, who rides the bus from Chapel Hill to her job at Marshall's in Durham each day, said she was scared when she heard the voice crackle over the bus intercom.

The bus had just passed the Morehead Planetarium. "We heard through the intercom, 'All TTA bus operators, pull over,' " said fellow passenger Johnell Hunter who rides the TTA to his job at Jason's Deli at New Hope Commons.

The two buses in Chapel Hill pulled over. "Then it was a while and nobody said anything," Cobbs said. "After awhile, the authorities said, 'Get off your bus and go 1,000 feet up the street,' " she said.

That's when the passengers really started worrying. The group of five passengers walked back to the Planetarium, and police officers arrived, and blocked off Franklin Street. A couple of crisis counselors from the Chapel Hill Police Department arrived to calm the riders.

There were no passengers on the other TTA bus, said Capt. Bob Overton of the Chapel Hill Police Department.

About 10:50 a.m., the all-clear was given, and the passengers walked back to their bus a block or so away and got back on board.

A call in the morning

Not everyone knew what was going on. In downtown Chapel Hill, a man with a suitcase had waited for the bus but it never came. He was planning to ride it to Raleigh, and then get another bus to Washington, D.C., but he finally gave up waiting.

The TTA buses share a call center with other transit companies in the Triangle, and a call came in about 9:15 a.m., to one of the operators, said Brad Schulz, communications officer for TTA.

TTA had about 47 buses rolling when the call came in, and all those buses were ordered to pull over and evacuate just like the buses in Chapel Hill, Schulz said.

The person who made the threat was a man with a foreign accent and the person mentioned the numbers of two buses in particular, but there were no buses with those numbers, Overton said.

The call center also takes calls for Capital Area Transit, which operates buses in Raleigh, and DATA, which operates buses in Durham.

Thirty-nine DATA buses were searched and checked when they returned to the main terminal as a precaution, said Ieshia Robertson, public affairs specialist for DATA.

"The call wasn't for us," she said. "We did it as a precaution."

Just a few hours earlier, on Thursday evening, and just a block away at the Chapel Hill Post Office on Franklin Street, Chapel Hill police managed another evacuation after a letter addressed to presidential candidate John Edwards was found to have some powder in it.

Police shut down the post office and evacuated it until the powder could be tested.

Initial tests indicated the powder was benign, and on Friday morning, the Chapel Hill Police Department received word from a state lab that the powder did not contain any harmful ingredients, Overton said.

Translink Eyeballing New Cameras


TransLink wants to install surveillance video cameras at all its West Coast Express stations, a decision prompted by terrorist bombings of the transit systems in London and Madrid.

The closed-circuit television system would cover the eight West Coast Express stations between Vancouver and Mission. TransLink hopes the move will bring increased security to the line.

"Recent terrorist attacks on the London and Madrid transit systems highlight the need for enhanced security of TransLink's commuter rail transportation system," reads a TransLink bid document issued this week. "... The significant role of CCTV in investigating the London terrorist attacks has highlighted the potential for CCTV to augment counter-terrorism strategies."

TransLink hopes to have a final cost estimate for the plan submitted by mid-July.

But CCTV systems may have a greater role in investigating crimes after they happen, as opposed to preventing them.

"A camera is probably not going to stop a crime," said SkyTrain CEO Doug Kelsey in a TransLink promotional video released earlier this week. "But a camera is absolutely instrumental, as it was in London, about the reconstruction and the ability to respond quickly to focus where you need to focus."

Metro Transit Steps Up Bus Security

Source: Pioneer Press

Article Last Updated: 05/03/2007 11:49:42 PM CDT

Metro Transit announced a $2.4 million plan to increase security Thursday in the wake of two killings and other recent violence aboard buses. The agency says transit crime fell last year and is down again this year, but it acknowledged a fatal shooting in downtown St. Paul last month and a beating death in Minneapolis in March have unnerved riders.

Highlights of the security plan:

Officers: Transit police officers will ride buses 1,500 hours a month, up from 270 hours a month last year.

Stops: There will be more coordination with municipal police to patrol bus stops.

Cameras: Nearly 250 buses will get upgraded digital cameras that produce clearer video and record continuously.

Partnerships: The agency will work with groups such as Mad Dads, which puts volunteers on buses to improve civility and etiquette.