QUINCY, Fla., – Just before noon on Monday, Oct. 24, a 2005 StarMetro bus was stolen from the C.K. Steele Plaza. Bus 0509 was boarded by James Shaw, Jr. Shaw then put the bus in gear and drove out of the terminal.
Police officers began chasing the bus westbound on W. Tennessee Street.
When passing Caliark Street, Shaw veered the bus into oncoming traffic. Officers soon decided to call off the pursuit after realizing Shaw was the only person aboard the bus. Officers knew public safety is more important than catching a thief.
The end of the chase caused mass confusion among StarMetro administrators, Tallahassee police officers and Leon County sheriff’s deputies. No one was quite sure where the bus had gone. All they knew was “the bus was heading east on U.S. 90.”
Shaw drove the bus over 22 miles west on Highway 90 until a Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office vehicle ran him off the road in Quincy. The bus slammed into a fence on the opposite side of the highway, damaging the fence and cars in used car lot.
“It’s hard to believe,” said used car lot owner Nino Ceballos. “It had to be my place. In the meantime I have to fix the back. I can’t leave a mess like this.”
Ceballos’s neighbor, business owner James Barton said he heard commotion outside, so he brought his wife to the back of the store—where he felt they’d be safest.
“I saw the bus swerve across the road, hit the utility pole and knock it down and plow into the fence of my neighbor’s car lot. I saw police in the street with guns drawn, and at that time I took off to the back of my building.”
The crime scene was treated as any other stolen vehicle would be because law enforcers determined there was no imminent public danger. Officers from the Florida Highway Patrol, Tallahassee Police Department, Quincy Police Department and Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office were on scene. At least eight police vehicles in all were present at the scene.
Tallahassee’s Chief of Police, Dennis Jones, said this kind of event is what proves the necessity of interdepartmental cooperation.
“With a fast response and the cooperation of the surrounding agencies, we were able to apprehend this criminal,” said Jones. “I would like to thank all the departments involved for their help today in keeping the public safe.”
After assessing the scene, arresting Shaw and clearing most of the rubble, StarMetro employees worked to free the bus from its resting place.
A StarMetro employee boarded the bus, put it in drive, then reverse, then drive again. After a few minutes of clearing more debris around the wheelbase, they were able to free the bus. They then turned it around and allowed a heavy duty tow truck load it up and bring bus 0509 back to Tallahassee.