April 22, 2018
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911 recording: Misunderstanding in NH bus bomb scare

A passenger on a Maine-to-New York Greyhound bus surrenders to authorities after a nine-hour standoff sparked by a bomb scare in Portsmouth, N.H., Thursday, May 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. — A police dispatch log made during a Greyhound bus bomb scare that drew a massive police presence describes what appeared to be someone holding a handgun on board, a man taking his shirt off and a woman who tried to get off the bus but stopped, according to records released Tuesday.

The transcript of comments made among police officers also says a “suspect is giving commands on the bus,” which had been headed from Bangor, Maine, to New York but stopped in Portsmouth. The transcript and a recording of the 911 call that sparked the scare and a daylong standoff on the bus on May 6 were released Tuesday following a Right-to-Know request filed by The Associated Press and other media.

The 911 call, which is nearly nine minutes long, shows a calm, businesslike exchange among police, an area manager for Greyhound and the bus driver. The manager told the driver to fake a mechanical problem after a police dispatch operator said there was someone on the bus “with a walkie-talkie who has made reference to a bomb.” The manager says “he is Arabic, and a number of people heard him.”

The driver and 16 passengers got off the bus within about two hours, leaving behind a Burundi man whose phone conversation in Swahili prompted the scare. The man was too frightened and refused to leave for hours until a relative was brought in to interpret.

No bomb was found on the bus, and it’s unclear if a gun was found.

An 11:18 a.m. quote from the dispatch log, said shortly after the bus pulled over, refers to the man with the walkie-talkie saying “there is a bomb on the bus” several times. Nearly a half-hour later, a man is seen taking his shirt off and “swapping clothes,” a dispatcher says. Five minutes after that a dispatcher says “it looks like someone is holding a handgun,” and two minutes later, “hold positions, the woman that was trying to get off the bus has stopped and did not get out,” is heard.

A few minutes after that, at 11:56 a.m., a dispatcher says “suspect is giving commands on the bus,” and the FBI is requested. Two minutes later a dispatcher says “everyone on the bus is seated and very calm.”

Two hours later, most of the passengers left, except the Burundi passenger, who had little knowledge or understanding of English. At 3:23 p.m., he is described as wearing camouflage pants, combat boots, a long-sleeve shirt and a beanie or religious hat and being in his late 30s to early 40s.

He came out about five hours later with his hands over his head. He went to his knees before soon getting up and appearing to follow orders from police to walk away from the bus.

Police called it all a misunderstanding.


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