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Atlanta bus hijacking suspect was interviewed by reporters as witness after food court shooting

The man who authorities say hijacked a bus in Atlanta Tuesday and shot a passenger dead was a witness to a shooting at a downtown food court just hours before and was interviewed by reporters where he rambled about his mental health. 

Joseph Grier, 39, was arrested Tuesday after holding a bus driver at gunpoint and holding the remaining 17 commuters hostage as he led police on a wild chase through multiple jurisdictions.

Grier was booked into the Fulton County Jail on more than two dozen charges, including murder, 14 counts of kidnapping, 13 counts of aggravated assault, hijacking a motor vehicle, and possession of a firearm. 

Just a couple of hours earlier, Grier was rambling to reporters about his mental health, criminal record and banking history as police responded to a shooting at a food court in the Peachtree Center complex.

Appearing agitated, Grier remarked that he was bipolar and had been off his medication for “like two weeks.” He said he felt like a “snitch” for describing what he had seen, per reporting from The Associated Press. 

Grier told reporters he was in “extreme mode” when he saw the shooter. He talked about the importance of protecting himself, pulling a box cutter out of his pocket and repeatedly saying he couldn’t get a gun because of his felony criminal record.

“I protect myself. I can’t get a gun, you know what I’m saying?” he said. “So my thing is protect yourself like you’re in chain gang. I did prison time.”


Grier reportedly rambled that he had seen a man he believed to be the shooter confront a woman outside the food court and ran after the shooting.

Video shot by FOX 5 Atlanta shows what appears to be Grier talking to authorities at the scene, while looking agitated. 

Not long after being interviewed, Grier allegedly hijacked a commuter bus, ordering the driver at gunpoint to hit the gas and panicking the passengers. By the time the bus rolled to a stop some 40 minutes later, authorities said, Grier had fatally shot one passenger and led officers on a dramatic chase through multiple jurisdictions. 

Peachtree Center

Police said Grier had boarded a bus bound for a suburban Gwinnett County park-and-ride lot 26 miles away. APD Chief Darin Schierbaum told reporters that investigators believe Grier didn’t have a gun when he boarded the bus.


At some point, he got into a fight with passenger Ernest Byrd Jr. When the 58-year-old Byrd pulled a gun, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Grier took the gun and fatally shot Byrd. Grier then threatened to shoot the driver if he stopped.

The rush-hour chase zigzagged across highway lanes and suburban streets, with the bus careening into other cars and crossing into opposing traffic. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said police flattened tires on the bus, but it kept rolling until a state trooper fired his rifle into the engine, causing it to stop running.

hijacked bus atlanta

Chief Schierbaum said investigators have found no connection between Grier and 34-year-old Jeremy Malone, the man accused of opening fire at the food court, injuring three people before an off-duty APD officer shot him. 

Schierbaum and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said they believe Grier’s actions were likely linked to mental illness.


“Was he having a mental episode for that brief moment triggered by police sirens, triggered by activity that he’s hearing, or was he already that day having a mental episode (and) he was just in that area?” Dickens said. “All of that will play into our investigation.”

Schierbaum said 17 people were on the bus, including the driver. Byrd was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Mayor Dickens said both of Tuesday’s shootings were the “result of too many people having guns in their hands.” He noted that both suspects have lengthy criminal records — Malone had 11 prior arrests, and Grier had 19 — and were ineligible to own guns because of prior felony convictions.

Grier is charged with one count of murder, one count of hijacking a motor vehicle, 13 counts of aggravated assault, 14 counts of kidnapping, one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and one count of possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of a crime.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, best known for her prosecutions of former President Trump and rapper Young Thug, asked state officials on Wednesday to appoint a special prosecutor in Grier’s case. 

mugshot jeremy malone

Malone’s charges in the food court shooting include aggravated assault and reckless conduct. He was held without bail in the Fulton County Jail, and no lawyer who could comment on charges was listed in online court records. Schierbaum said Malone and the three food court victims are all expected to survive.

Grier was being held without bail Wednesday, and online records didn’t list an attorney who could comment on the charges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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