Slain MTA Bus Driver Mourned in WeHo

Alan Thomas, 51, was a five-year veteran of the MTA. Authorities believe Anthony Craig Chambers was the gunman who killed Thomas on a bus Sunday in West Hollywood.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Hundreds of people turned out to pay their respects to the MTA bus driver shot and killed by a passenger. Beverly White was at the vigil and has the latest. (Published Monday, May 21, 2012)

    Hundreds of mourners traveled on Metro buses from a downtown bus yard Monday night to the site of a makeshift memorial in West Hollywood, where a bus driver who was fatally shot by a passenger on Sunday.

    Alan Thomas, 51, a five-year MTA veteran, was killed by a man police say surrendered shortly after the incident on Santa Monica near La Cienega boulevards after 9 a.m. Sunday.

    Bus Shooting Costs MTA Community a "Family Member"

    [LA] Bus Shooting Costs MTA Community a "Family Member"
    Authorities believe Anthony Craig Chambers gunned down 51-year-old Alan Thomas, a five-year MTA veteran, a bus in West Hollywood on Sunday, May 20. The shooting rocked the tight-knit community of transit riders and drivers, who say they lost a family member. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from West Hollywood for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 21, 2012. (Published Monday, May 21, 2012)

    Thomas’ friend Tashoma Henderson remembered a man who "had no enemies."

    "He loved everybody, he associated with everybody," she said, another woman behind her adding that Thomas would let riders on the bus, even if they were unable to pay. "He was a very good guy."

    The incident prompted Metro riders, employees and their families to question out loud the safety of public transportation.

    "We're hearing things that have been happening for years and there's no safety on the bus and what they with so, yeah, there's a lot of concern that they've known about this for awhile," said Ray Ephriam, the victim's cousin.

    MTA operator Victor George said they're "always exposed to dangers," including what he described as mental, verbal and physical abuse from passengers.

    "He was a nice person, very sweet," said a bus driver who paid her respects Monday by setting a flower on the sidewalk near where Sunday's shooting occurred.

    As friends mourned, authorities on Monday identified the man they believe shot and killed Thomas. He was identified as Anthony Craig Chambers, 41, of Los Angeles.

    Chambers was arrested by sheriff's deputies on Sunday, after allegedly shooting and killing the Thomas on a bus with no other passengers, said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Tony Moore said.

    Chambers was booked on suspicion of murder at the West Hollywood Sheriff's Station and is being held in lieu of $1 million in bail, Moore said in a press release.

    The shooting rocked the tight-knit community of transit riders and drivers throughout the region.

    Thomas had just steered his bus onto Santa Monica out of a layover area at La Cienega when he was attacked, said Marc Littman, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro.

    The transit agency happened to have a supervisor stationed on Santa Monica to help set up a temporary road closure to make way for the Amgen Tour of California bicycle race, said another spokesman, Rick Jaeger.

    At a few minutes after 9 a.m., the supervisor saw the bus - which had been heading east - roll backward into a parked car, and ran over to see what was going on.

    Thomas was taken to Cedars Sinai Medical Center where he died at 9:30 a.m., Littman said.

    It was the first time a Metro driver was slain on the job, Littman said.

    Preliminary reports indicated that the assailant used a shotgun, Littman said, and then climbed out of a rear window of the bus.

    The gunman then waited for sheriff deputies to arrive, Littman said.

    Los Angeles Sheriff's Lt. Dave Dolson said homicide detectives were trying to determine a motive and that it didn't appear the suspect had a relationship with Thomas.

    "It's very very rare that something like this happens," Dolson said. "We'll know more in the next few days, I'm sure."

    Metro CEO Art Leahy went to the scene, expressing condolences to the drivers' family and promising to make grief counselors available to the agency's 4,000 drivers, Littman said.

    "It's an absolute tragic situation," said Jaeger. "We've lost one of our family members."

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