Steve Lambert, Canadian Press
July 31, 2008
Winnipeg RCMP say they don’t know what prompted vicious attack on Greyhound bus
PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man. — Police said this afternoon that they don’t know what prompted a passenger on a Greyhound bus heading to Winnipeg to viciously attack the man sitting next to him.
Passengers said the man repeatedly stabbed his seat-mate before beheading him and carrying the victim’s head around the bus.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve Colwell wouldn’t confirm those details but did say a 40-year-old suspect was in RCMP custody and police were planning to interview him.
No charges were immediately laid.
Colwell said the behaviour of the passengers and driver probably prevented anyone else from being hurt.
“It’s not something that happens regularly on a bus,” he said. “You’re sitting there enjoying your trip and then all of a sudden somebody gets stabbed. I imagine it would be pretty traumatic … the way they (the passengers) acted was extraordinary.”
Colwell said they “were very brave. They reacted swiftly, calmly in exiting the bus and as a result nobody else was injured.”
Shocked passengers described the horrific attack as something incomprehensible.
One moment, the quiet man near the back of the bus was minding his own business. The man hadn’t talked to anyone around him, and seemed to pay no attention to the younger fellow sitting next to him, who was listening to music on headphones.
The next moment, witnesses said, the older man stood up, still quiet, and repeatedly stabbed, then beheaded his younger victim.
“We heard this blood-curdling scream and turned around, and the guy was standing up, stabbing this guy repeatedly, like 40 or 50 times,” Garnet Caton said today from a hotel in Brandon, Man., where he and other passengers had been taken to rest.
“There was no rage or anything. He was like a robot, stabbing the guy.”
Caton said the bus stopped and everyone scrambled to get out while the attacker started methodically carving up the victim’s body, not paying attention to anyone else.
Caton and the driver shut the bus door from the outside while they waited for police to arrive.
“We put our bodies up against the door, waiting for him to come out … and he went back and brought the head to the front and pretty much displayed it … and dropped it on the ground in front of us,” Caton said.
“All very calmly. He was wearing sunglasses. It was no big deal to him.”
Fellow passenger Cody Olmstead from Kentville, N.S., also recalled the chilling scene.
“The guy came to the front of the door with buddy’s head in his hands, decapitated. He dropped the head and went back and started cutting the body back up,” Olmstead said.
When police arrived, the victim and his attacker were the only ones left on the bus, Colwell said.
“When attempts were made to have him exit and surrender to police were unsuccessful, additional resources including the RCMP emergency response team and negotiator team were called in to assist.”
The man eventually tried to flee by breaking a bus window and jumping out, Colwell said.
“He was immediately subdued and arrested without incident and is currently in RCMP custody.”
Both Olmstead and Caton said the attacker and the victim appeared not to know each other.
They said the attacker boarded the bus in Brandon last night. The victim, who Caton said appeared to be about 19, had been on the bus since Edmonton.
Police would not confirm the victim’s age and said his name would not be released until his family had been notified. The suspect’s name wasn’t released either.
Federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said the full weight of the law must be brought to bear on the perpetrator.
“We want to make sure the process is followed as aggressively as possible, the full legal process ….” Day said from Levis, Que., where Conservative MPs are gathered for a summer planning session.
“This particular incident, as horrific as it is, is obviously extremely rare. Certainly the horrific nature of it is probably one-of-a-kind in Canadian history.”
Greyhound called the event tragic but isolated.
A company spokeswoman said bus travel is the safest mode of transportation, despite the fact bus stations do not have metal detectors and other security measures used at airports.
“Due to the rural nature of our network, airport-type security is not practical. It’s a very different type of system,” Abby Wambaugh said from Greyhound’s corporate offices in Texas.
The bus was carrying 37 passengers and the driver to Winnipeg from Edmonton.
A portion of the east-bound Trans-Canada Highway was closed overnight as officers remained on the scene.
Passengers had no explanation as to what might have prompted the attack. The suspect had been on the bus for only about an hour and didn’t even sit near his victim, at first.
“He sat in the front at first, everything was normal,” Caton said.
“We went to the next stop and he got off and had a smoke with another young lady there. When he got on the bus again, he came to the back near where I was sitting.
“He put his bags in the overhead compartment. He didn’t say a word to anybody. He seemed totally normal. About a half an hour later, we heard this blood-curdling scream.”