TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Chaos erupted on a Tampa city bus when a passenger stabbed the driver to death.
Moments later, calls came into police, who released some of the 911 recordings.
Caller: This guy just stabbed the bus driver in the neck!
Dispatcher: Is the person who stabbed him still there?
Caller: No, he ran off.
The attack happened around 4 p.m. on a HART bus on Nebraska Avenue. Investigators tracked down and arrested Justin McGriff, 35, who was on foot on Interstate 275.
According to an arrest affidavit, the bus was equipped with an audio-visual surveillance system, which recorded the attack.
The document says McGriff was holding a weapon in his right hand as he walked toward the front of the bus. He stopped next to the driver and could be heard saying "God bless you, God bless you," just before he attacked.
It's unclear why McGriff stabbed the driver, identified by family as Thomas Dunn, who managed to pull safely to the side of the road before he passed away.
Monday, McGriff was in court, where a judge ordered him held in jail without bond, for now. he is charged with first-degree murder and resisting arrest.
The stabbing came five months after Dunn spoke at a Hillsborough Transit Authority meeting, raising safety concerns after being assaulted by a passenger.
"I'm just sitting in my seat. I get a face full of spit in my eye and then the lady decides she's going to try to break my arm on the way out of the bus, try to draw blood in my arm," Dunn said at the meeting.
"It really kind of just makes me nervous the fact that this driver has had previous questions in saying, 'I don't feel safe… Can we do something about this?’" HART Bus Passenger Kera Carrol said.
"In his final moments as a HART employee, he was a hero," said Colin Mulloy, Director of Safety and Security with HART.
When asked what specific action was taken after Dunn shared his concerns five months ago, Mulloy responded, "As concerns are brought to HART, we develop corrective action plans and they're given to the appropriate division and then we follow all our safety protocols to make sure we are addressing them throughout policies and procedures."
Asked further about what changes were made in particular, he said, "One of the things I can tell you is, in December, we did a safety day of action. We actually utilized safety committees and we were out actually in the streets. Both labor and management was out at our transit centers talking to customers about riding on the bus, talking about safety, talking about security."
Moving forward, more action is promised. HART plans to meet and brainstorm with transit leaders, statewide.
"What happens in Tampa could also happen in Jacksonville, could happen in Miami, could happen in Orlando," Mulloy said. "We'll be bringing and convening those transit agencies as well as our partners such as FDOT, industry experts for a symposium on bus operator assaults so we can find real solutions for some of these isolated problems."
The Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents transit employees in the U.S. and Canada condemned the attack in Tampa. The group is now demanding that Congress pass the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act which would require agencies to create risk reduction plans, install physical barriers to protect drivers and retrofit or replace buses with left-side blind spots. Also, it would require transit agencies to report on a wider range of incidents.
"Saturday is a very isolated event," Mulloy said. "We are committed to ensuring it never occurs again."
HART says they've invested over 1.3 million dollars in a new HD camera system, which will allow them to monitor passengers in real time, from more angles. The buses are in constant communication with the control center which is in direct communication with law enforcement. And, there are transit supervisors throughout the system.
It's been a difficult couple of days for all HART employees. Monday, they held a moment of silence to remember their fallen colleague who, despite a horrific attack, ensured all 12 passengers made it off safely.