Authorities said Monday they'd open a criminal threat investigation after a passenger on a Metro bus in Lincoln Heights claimed he had Ebola.
The incident happened at 1:45 p.m. when a man in a surgical mask told a bus driver, "You better not mess with me because I have Ebola," before getting off the bus at Hoover Street and Venice Boulevard and disappearing, said Paul Gonzales, a spokesman with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
"The purpose of this, this statement made by this man is to sow fear," Gonzales said. "Someone who wants to sow fear is a terrorist."
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An unknown number of passengers had also gotten off the bus, Line 33, at that location, officials said. The driver, who said the man had dropped the mask on the bus, was examined at the scene by paramedics and was taken to an undisclosed hospital. The bus driver did not have a fever and appeared to be in good health.
The mask was being analyzed. Authorities said they would review bus surveillance video to see if they can identify the passenger.
Gonzales said the case likely is a hoax, but officials were taking no chances.
"It's worrisome," Gonzales said. "I can't think of a competent medical authority that would allow someone who was diagnosed with Ebola just to walk out in the world."
Correction: Metro spokesman Paul Gonzales initially confirmed to NBC4 that authorities were investigating a terrorist threat but later said they were investigating a criminal threat.
Irene Moore contributed to this report.