The gunman held a firearm to the bus driver’s head and said, “Don’t stop this bus,” Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said, adding the tragedy could have been worse.

A suspected gunman was arrested after allegedly hijacking an Atlanta bus and leading police on a chase Tuesday, following a violent incident at a downtown mall. Police responded to a 911 call about an emergency on a Gwinnett County Transit bus around 4:30 p.m., just as they were wrapping up a briefing on a shooting at a mall food court.

The gunman forced the bus driver to drive off when confronted by police. The bus, carrying 17 passengers, was pursued through Gwinnett and DeKalb counties before it was stopped by a BearCat police vehicle. All passengers safely exited the bus.

The hijacking started near 45 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd. in Atlanta and ended 20 miles away at 5107 Hugh Howell Road in Stone Mountain. Mayor Andre Dickens commended 911 operators and police, emphasizing the severity of the situation with the gunman threatening the driver’s life.

The deceased victim, found shot on the bus, was taken to a hospital but did not survive. The victim’s identity remains undisclosed pending family notification. No other passengers were injured.

The suspect, Joseph Grier, 39, of Stone Mountain, has a history of 19 arrests. The motive behind the hijacking is still unknown, and an investigation by the Atlanta Police Department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is ongoing. Grier’s legal representation status is unclear.

During the chase, a 911 call from the bus ended abruptly, but another relative of a passenger provided crucial information through texts. Additionally, an open 911 call from the bus aided police coordination across multiple jurisdictions.

Earlier in the day, a gunman shot three people at the Peachtree Center Mall food court before being wounded by police. The suspect, who had 11 prior arrests, had a brief altercation with one victim before shooting two others.

Mayor Dickens highlighted the issue of repeat offenders with access to firearms, suggesting mental health concerns and the prevalence of guns as contributing factors. The bus driver, though shaken, is considered a hero for his dedication to passenger safety during the ordeal.