Gwinnett County Transit Bus hijacking: Man killed on bus identified

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

ATLANTA – A hijacked Gwinnett County Transit bus, with 17 people on board, barreled through traffic in multiple jurisdictions, finally stopping just east of Tucker. 

One person was killed and another, 39-year-old Joseph Grier, was taken into custody.

The person who was killed was identified on Wednesday as 58-year-old Ernest Byrd Jr.

Gwinnett County Transit bus high-speed chase

According to the Atlanta Police Department, moments after a 4:30 p.m. press conference in Downtown Atlanta regarding an active shooter incident at The Hub at Peachtree Center, 911 calls started to come in about a fight on a Gwinnett County Transit bus at 45 Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard NE.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Grier got into an argument with a passenger, which eventually escalated into a fight. When the passenger pulled out a gun, the GBI says Grier took the gun, threatened other passengers, and then shot the man he was fighting with. Grier then forced the bus driver to take off, police say. Multiple police officers began chasing the bus.

From Downtown Atlanta, the bus got onto the Downtown Connector and continued north on Interstate 85.

The bus traveled along the busy interstate around the start of the rush hour traffic. 

Police officers from Atlanta, DeKalb County, and Gwinnett County, as well as troopers from the Georgia State Patrol were in tow.

Officers formed a barricade at Jimmy Carter Boulevard, where the bus exited and headed east.

Officers attempted to use stop sticks multiple times to stop the bus.

Eventually, the bus crossed back into DeKalb County, where the road turned into Mountain Industrial Boulevard. 

Once in Tucker, the bus turned east again, heading along Hugh Howell Road towards Stone Mountain.

The bus eventually stopped around 5:09 p.m. in the 5100 block of Hugh Howell Road, just past McCurdy Road. The DeKalb County SWAT team immediately placed a Bearcat transport in front of the bus to prevent it from fleeing the scene again.

Several people immediately stepped off the bus, their hands in the air.

A few minutes later, a person could be seen being led away by police. Atlanta PD confirmed shortly after that a suspect had been taken into custody. 

First responders could then be seen giving aid to someone on the ground outside the bus. 

Atlanta police say one person was found shot on the bus. They were rushed to an area hospital where they were pronounced dead from their injuries. Officials have not released their name at this time.

Who hijacked a Gwinnett County Transit bus?

During a press conference around 7 p.m., Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum identified the suspect as being 39-year-old Joseph Grier.

Chief Shierbaum says Grier has had 19 arrests, some of which involved the use of a handgun.

According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, Grier was last released from Baldwin State Prison a decade ago after serving time for a 2011 aggravated assault in Fulton County. In addition to the two counts of aggravated assault, Grier also served time for the possession of a knife during the commission of a crime.

GDOC records indicate, he also served time for a 2008 aggravated assault in Cobb County and child molestation in 2005 in DeKalb County.

According to the Fulton County Jail, Grier was arrested in 2017 for violation of probation, in 2019 for criminal trespass, simple assault, and violation of a protective order, and in 2019 for aggravated battery and aggravated assault.

According to the DeKalb County Jail, Grier was arrested in 2004 for disorderly conduct, 2010 for failure to register as a sex offender, 2017 for public indecency and battery-family violence.

The chief said his last known address was in Stone Mountain.

Grier is facing one count of murder, 14 counts of kidnapping, one count of first-degree hijacking a motor vehicle, 13 counts of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of or attempt to commit certain felonies, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Chief Shierbaum added that too many people are getting guns that have no legal business owning a gun.

Wife’s frantic call during bus hijacking

A wife frantically called her husband to tell her what was going on inside the bus as it drove up I-85. 

“Apparently, they were talking about something. I have no idea what they were talking about,” the man told FOX 5. “But one guy shot the other guy, and I told her to hang the phone up because the guy might think she was calling the police.” 

He said he was able to track her using her locator on her cellphone. 

“Never thought about somebody getting on the bus in the afternoon and shooting somebody,” he said. 

“It was just gut-wrenching,” he added. 

Others on the bus did call 911, with one caller keeping the line open and feeding vital information to authorities during the chase.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.