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A Greyhound bus driver and four passengers were injured overnight after police say a 52-year-old Washington man grabbed the steering wheel “in an aggressive manner,” causing the bus, traveling at 60 mph, to crash.
Leroy Maass, of Centralia, Washington, was taken to a hospital before he was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center Monday afternoon. He is charged with three counts of aggravated battery resulting in great bodily harm and two counts of misdemeanor aggravated battery.
The driver, Bernette Reed, had a broken femur and an “open wound to the pelvic region,” and was listed in critical condition at the University of New Mexico Hospital. Albuquerque Fire Rescue said he had to be extricated from the bus.
At around 11:20 p.m. Sunday, officers were called to an open field off the side of Interstate 40 near the 12th Street exit. What at first appeared to be a crash became a violent crime investigation.
Rebecca Atkins, an Albuquerque Police Department spokeswoman, said Maass and his brother were traveling from Washington to Oklahoma when they got into a fight. She said Maass threw something at his brother.
“Leroy made statements before the incident that several subjects on the bus were following him, and he believed that those subjects wanted to hurt him,” a detective wrote in a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court. “Leroy later threw an object at another passenger before jumping over a plexiglass barrier and grabbing the steering wheel of the Greyhound bus.”
The bus then “slammed into the road’s cement barrier approximately twice before swerving off the highway and through a metal chain link fence into an open field.”
By the time detectives arrived, several people, including Maass and the driver, had already been taken to UNMH, Presbyterian Hospital, Lovelace Medical Center and the Lovelace Heart Hospital for evaluation. The passengers’ injuries included paralysis on the right side, broken bones, bruises, lacerations and a facial seizure.
At the hospital, Maass told an officer that he was a passenger on the bus and he had pulled the steering wheel, causing it to crash, according to the complaint. However, when a detective later spoke with him and advised him of his rights, he refused to be interviewed. His brother also declined to speak with investigators.
Reed – the bus driver – gave a description of the man who grabbed the wheel and it matched Maass’ description, according to the complaint. He was provided a photographic array and recognized Maass as a passenger but said he was not sure if he was the one who grabbed the wheel.
An AFR spokesman said there were 25 people on the bus. Greyhound did not immediately respond to requests for comment.