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Ranting Bus Rider Killed by SWAT Team After Slaying Passenger

May 17, 1991

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ A woman riding a bus ranted about Nazis and ″just opened fire″ and shot a fellow passenger, then held off police for three hours until deputies stormed the bus early Thursday and killed her.

All other passengers and the driver, who had radioed his dispatcher for help, escaped unharmed after the shooting broke out late Wednesday. The wounded passenger later died.

The woman was identified as Esther R. Rogers, 42, of Los Angeles, said coroner’s spokesman Bob Dambacher.

The dead passenger was a 30-year-old French national living in West Los Angeles. His name was withheld until relatives were notified.

Little was about the woman’s motive. Neighbors described her as a sad, lonely and eccentric woman whose parents survived a Nazi death camp. Passengers said she seemed deranged.

″She just was talking stuff about black people, white people, Nazis and next thing I know I heard something that sounded like a firecracker and I looked back and she had a gun there,″ said passenger Mike Gunning.

″She just opened fire on this guy. Everybody just scrambled. It was a big mayhem after that and everybody just jumped off the bus.″

″She screamed and yelled ’Nazi 3/8‴ said another passenger, Patrick Hin.

The woman, dressed in T-shirt and jeans, was not attempting to hijack the bus, said Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Robert Stoneman.

″She never did anything directed at the driver,″ he said. ″She never demanded to be taken anywhere by the driver.″

The shooting erupted as the Southern California Rapid Transit District bus rolled west on Santa Monica Boulevard. No more than 20 passengers were aboard, said Anthony Greno, a transit company spokesman.

Driver Harold Carter radioed that he had an emergency, Greno said. The bus’ electronic sign also was set to flash ″Emergency. Please Call Police.″

The driver stopped the bus on a tree-lined, residential section of the boulevard. Beverly Hills police arrived first but summoned the sheriff’s special weapons team to deal with what was initially reported as a hijacking.

Several members of the SWAT team reached the fallen passenger, lying near the front of the bus, around midnight, nearly two hours after the shooting. He was pronounced dead at a hospital from gunshot wounds to the upper torso.

During the standoff a deputy attempted to talk the woman out.

″Come on out 3/8″ the deputy urged. ″Don’t be afraid. I just want to help. If you do, this will all be over.″

Shortly after 1 a.m., a police officer spotted the woman at the rear of the bus.

″She was in the back, pointing a .357 Magnum at the front of the bus. We believed if someone came on the bus she was going to shoot them,″ Stoneman said. The SWAT team set off an explosive device as a diversion and entered. The charging officers fired several rounds and struck the woman in the upper torso. She died at the scene. None of the deputies was injured.

Deputy John Rhodes, one of the SWAT team members who stormed the bus, said the woman did not say anything to the deputies or fire her gun.

Herman Rotsten, 76, who lives across the street from the woman’s home in Los Angeles’ trendy Melrose district, said he watched her decline in recent years.

″After the divorce a number of years ago, she began to go downhill,″ he said. ″Esther was always a sad person. She did not get along too well with her family and they with her. Her parents were in Auschwitz. Her mother died of cancer. Her father ... died about a 1 1/2 years ago, which hit her very hard.″

Next-door neighbor Warwick Sims said Rogers used to help homeless people in the area, but had an odd side.

″She was eccentric, no question about it,″ Sims said. ″Yesterday she came over to me. She changed the color of her hair. It was bright orange.″

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