The man accused of killing bus driver Alan Thomas last weekend has been charged with special circumstances murder, the Los Angeles County District Attorney said Tuesday.
Anthony Craig Chambers, 41, was arrested at the scene of the slaying on Sunday morning. Police said he was the only passenger on an Eastbound bus when he shot and killed Thomas, who had just started heading down Santa Monica Blvd. after a rest stop at La Cienega Blvd.
If convicted, he could face the death penalty. California law allows prosecutors to seek death when someone is convicted of lying in wait and murdering a transportation worker.
Deputy District Attorney Keri Modder said in a press release on Tuesday that prosecutors have not yet decided whether to actually seek death for Chambers if he is found guilty. If not, the special circumstances charge will mean that he faces life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Chambers is expected to be arraigned today after 1:30 p.m. at Beverly Hills Superior Court. He is being held without bail.
On Monday, 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 Thomas was shot.
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," said Ray Ephraim, the victim's cousin. "There's no safety on the bus."
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.
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.
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."