One person was killed and five others were wounded Monday morning when a gunman opened fire aboard a Greyhound bus that was headed to the Bay Area from Los Angeles before passengers disarmed him, authorities said.
Authorities received a 911 call from someone aboard the bus just before 1:30 a.m. reporting that a person with a handgun was firing at passengers as the bus was traveling in the Fort Tejon area, California Highway Patrol Sgt. Brian Pennings said.
The packed bus was heading north on the 5 Freeway with 43 people on board, including two children aged 6 and 8 years old, when the gunfire erupted, according to the sergeant.
Passengers on the bus disarmed the gunman as the driver quickly pulled over on the right shoulder and the passengers got him off the bus, Pennings said.
"Due to some very heroic acts by the passengers, they were able to overcome this subject and disarm him," Pennings said.
The shooter was left on the freeway and the bus continued to the next off-ramp, pulling into a Valero gas station on Grapevine Road. There, the passengers administered first aid to the shooting victims while waiting for emergency crews to arrive.
“I can tell you the bus driver, his actions were very appropriate … one could say heroic,” Pennings said.
One victim, described by Pennings as a 51-year-old woman from Colombia, died at the scene. Authorities have not released her name.
Five more victims were taken to area hospitals, including a 45-year-old man who was airlifted from the scene in critical condition and taken to a hospital for surgery, Pennings said.
The suspect was identified as Anthony Devonte Williams, 33, of Capital Heights, Maryland, CHP officials told the Associated Press. Williams was arrested and booked at the Kern County jail Monday evening on suspicion of murder and five counts of attempted murder and was being held without bail, Kern County Sheriff's booking records show.
A 39-year-old woman suffered major injuries and a 19-year-old woman was listed in critical condition. The two other victims were stable with minor to moderate injuries, according to CHP.
As emergency crews responded to the gas station, CHP officers found the suspected shooter on the freeway in the area where he was taken off the bus and they took him into custody without incident.
A black 9 mm semi-automatic handgun was found on the bus, along with several magazines, Pennings said.
A man who was on the bus at the time told The Associated Press that the gunman was cursing and muttering incoherently before firing at passengers.
The bus left a station at 1716 E. Seventh St. in downtown about 11:30 p.m., according to Greyhound's tracker. It was scheduled to arrive in San Francisco at 7:20 a.m.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone and every family member impacted by the incident today. We are gathering details and will assist the Kern County police in every way possible during their investigation," a statement from Greyhound read.
Greyhound is working with investigators to see if a surveillance camera on board captured the incident, CHP said.
A Denny's near the gas station closed to help take care of the victims as a crisis response team arrived to meet with passengers who witnessed the “horrific event," Pennings said.
An employee at a nearby fast food restaurant, Trinity Stone, said she ran out around midnight and saw a large law enforcement response as one victim was airlifted away from the scene.
Among those being escorted away from the bus were two children who appeared wide-eyed and scared, Stone said.
“Imagine being in that situation where the shots are going off and then those kids are just shaken up. I can’t even imagine the trauma that they went through," she said.
Investigators were still interviewing the suspected gunman and working to determine a motive for the shooting. Authorities said there was no evidence that the shooter knew anyone aboard the bus.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives detectives were working to track down where the firearm came from.