UPDATED: Rider with Gun Confronted Bus Driver in Fridley, Police Say

Replica BB gun found on southbound Route 10 Metro Transit bus.

Updated below. Fridley police arrested an 18-year-old St. Paul man on suspicion of second-degree assault Thursday night after a report that a male passenger had pointed a gun at a Metro Transit bus driver.

The bus was on Hwy. 64 at Old Central Avenue, just north of I-694.

Fridley officers turned the suspect over to Metro Transit police, according to Fridley Police Lt. Mike Monsrud.

A replica BB gun was found on the bus, Monsrud said in an email Friday morning.

Fridley police got the call at 9:51 p.m. Thursday, he said, and had cleared the scene by 10:46 p.m.

Update (Friday, 9:15 a.m.): According to Metro Transit, the incident began with a domestic dispute between passengers on a southbound Route 10 bus at about 9:30 p.m. Friday.

The driver asked the passengers, apparently a boyfriend and girlfriend, to stop arguing and calm down, Metro Transit spokesman Bruce Howard said.

The suspect walked up to the driver with a gun and the two began wrestling.

The driver had by that time already pressed the silent alarm. The Metro Transit call center received an alarm at 9:55 p.m.; Howard said there were other passengers on the bus who may also have made emergency calls.

Police from Fridley and Columbia Heights responded and were able to take the suspect into custody.

The driver went to North Memorial Hospital with bruises and cuts from the physical confrontation with the suspect, but no major injuries, Howard said.

None of the other passengers were hurt, Howard said.

Metro Transit police are leading the investigation. Howard said they are reviewing onboard video from the incident. (Metro Transit could not confirm the type of gun found.)

Update (Friday, 9:30 a.m.): Mohamed Helal was driving south on Hwy. 65 at about 9:45 p.m. when he noticed a bus with no driver visible that was stopped in the right turn lane of southbound Old Central Avenue NE, extending onto northbound Hwy. 65.

He had seen police cars in the area of Osborne Road NE that appeared to be responding to a call, but no police at that time were next to the bus, Helal said in an interview Friday morning.

After a brief shopping trip at Menard's, Helal tried to return north on Hwy. 65 at about 10:10 p.m. but had to take Old Central Avenue NE instead because a large police response was by then blocking northbound Hwy. 65. 

Helal estimated he saw as many as 10-15 police cars from both the Columbia Heights and Fridley police departments were surrounding the bus. 

Update (Friday, 9:45 a.m.): After a separate May 2011 incident in which a in Minneapolis (pointing as if his finger were a gun), Metro Transit Police Chief David Indrehus gave this statement to Fridley Patch:

Metro Transit Police take all threats to drivers with the utmost seriousness. Not only does a threatening action towards a driver jeopardize the safety and well-being of him or her, by turn it also jeopardizes the safety and well-being of every customer aboard the vehicle and other nearby vehicles, pedestrians and property. Metro Transit Police are among a number of groups who have pushed to increase the legal penalties for assaults and threatening actions towards transit drivers in this legislative session. ...

Every bus and train as well as rail stations, Park& Rides, transit centers and other locations within the transit network are equipped with video recording equipment that is invaluable to police investigators in identifying suspects and prosecuting offenders who commit crime in the transit system. In 2010, there were 17 felony-level assaults on bus drivers. Metro Transit Police made arrests brought charges in 15 of those cases due to the combination of solid police work and video technology.


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