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Gunfire On Bus Kills Driver, Wounds Passengers

July 29, 1988

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ A man opened fire on a public bus with an assault rifle Friday, killing the driver and wounding four passengers, possibly in retaliation for a fatal traffic accident, officials said.

Police were searching for four young men.

The shooting happened after the bus made a scheduled stop and at least one young man entered the bus, said police Lt. Jim Hahn. After yelling ″some short obscenities,″ Hahn said, the gunman fired first at the driver and then at passengers. Some passengers fled out bus windows.

A 15-year-old girl who did not want to be identified said that when the bus passed the shop where she was working, ″I heard - Bang 3/8 Bang 3/8 Bang 3/8 Bang 3/8 And Bang 3/8 - six to 10 shots, and then the bus stopped.″

The gunmen, described as being their late teens and early 20s, ran.

The rifle and several sets of clothing matching those worn by the attackers were found later Friday under the porch of a vacant house about two blocks from the scene, said Hahn. The caliber of the weapon was not divulged.

Billy ″B.J.″ Givens, described as a popular driver who had worked 20 years for AC Transit, died about an hour after he was hit by several bullets, Hahn said.

Passengers suffered wounds ranging ″from minor to critical.″ Their names and the hospitals where they were being treated were withheld.

Police said they were investigating whether the attack was in revenge for a collision the day before that killed Ellen Palmer, 52, after she ran a red light and crashed into a bus with a different driver about five blocks from the shooting scene.

AC driver Lester Dixon said two young men entered the district’s Emeryville maintenance yard Thursday night and asked the dispatcher ″for the name of the driver who killed the young woman in the bus accident earlier in the day.″ She refused to divulge the name. No threats were made.

Hahn said investigators had not substantiated rumors that bystanders made threats against the district over the accident.

Police would say only that they planned to interview several of Palmer’s sons.

Investigators also were checking whether the killing might have been drug- related revenge against one of the passengers. The area is plagued with heavy drug dealing. Officers were interviewing about 20 other people who were on the bus.

Givens, 43, had received several citations for politeness and helpfulness, awards determined by customer praise, said Mike Mills, a spokesman for the bus district which serves Alameda and Contra Costa counties on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay.

The shooting occurred along a route that begins in nearby downtown Berkeley and runs south to Oakland before continuing on to San Leandro, 30 miles to the south.

The last district driver murdered on duty was shot in 1981 in East Oakland.

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