(RED ROCK, N.M.) — Three people were killed and five others were injured when a shootout erupted between two outlaw biker gangs at the annual Red River Memorial Day Motorcycle Rally in New Mexico, police said.
As tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts converged on the Taos County resort town for the annual event and live music festival, members of the Bandidos and Water Dog biker gangs got into a fight in which multiple rounds of gunfire were traded between the two groups, New Mexico State Police Chief Tim Johnson said at a news conference Sunday morning.
Johnson said all eight people shot in the episode, including those killed, were members of the two biker gangs.
“I’ll apologize initially to the law abiding citizens that came to Red River to have a good Memorial Day Weekend, not the gangbangers that are ruining it for all of them, but for everyone there will be zero tolerance from this point forward,” Johnson said, adding that even people caught jay walking will be subject to arrest. “This is not going to happen again this weekend because we’re not going to allow it.”
As many as 28,000 bikers were expected to arrive in Red River this weekend for the 41st annual motorcycle rally.
The shooting erupted around 5 p.m. Saturday on Main Street on the east side of Red River when a confrontation occurred between members of the two biker gangs, Johnson said.
He said the fight was apparently over a photograph members of one of the gangs took with another outlaw biker gang in Albuquerque a few days ago.
“That spilled over to here, where they ran into each other again and a confrontation started. It started with words initially, then it turned into a fight, which then turned to shots fired,” Johnson said.
Killed in the shootout were two members of the Bandidos Johnson identified as Anthony Silva, 26, of Los Lunas, New Mexico, and Damian Breaux, 46, of Socorro, New Mexico. Also killed was Randy Sanchez, 46, of Albuquerque, a member of the Water Dogs, Johnson said.
Johnson said Jacob Castillo, 30, of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, a member of the Water Dogs, was arrested on suspicion of murder. Castillo was wounded in the incident and remained in a hospital on Sunday.
Two other members of the Bandidos who wounded in the shooting, Matthew Jackson, 39, of Austin, Texas, and Christopher Garcia, 41, were also arrested on charges that Johnson said were “somewhat unrelated” to the shootings. Jackson was taken into custody on a charge of unlawful carrying of a firearm inside a liquor establishment, and Garcia was arrested on a charge of possessing cocaine, Johnson said.
After being treated at a local hospital, Garcia and Johnson were booked at the Taos County Detention Center.
Three other biker gang members — ages 53, 31 and 43 — were wounded in the shooting and remained hospitalized Sunday, Johnson said. Their conditions were not released.
One of the wounded men was airlifted to a Denver hospital, according to the chief.
Johnson asked anyone who witnessed the gunfight or has video of it contact police investigators immediately.
At least 32 State Police officers and a number of other law enforcement officers from different agencies were already on patrol in Red River when the shooting broke out, Johnson said.
He said that on Friday, the New Mexico State Police received information from the Texas Department of Public Safety that 400 to 500 members of the Bandidos biker gang were riding from Texas to Red River.
Four days ago, two members of the Bandidos biker gang were arrested on charges stemming from a drive-by shooting in Lubbock, Texas, in which a member of the Mongols biker gang was targeted, authorities said.
“In early in April, I believe there was two shootouts, one in Oklahoma City, and another one in Dallas involving Bandidos,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that as long as members of the biker gangs remain in town, he could not guarantee everyone attending the motorcycle rally will be safe.
Red River Mayor Linda Calhoun said that based on a recommendation from the State Police, the city is encouraging most businesses in the city to remain closed for the remainder of the holiday weekend.
“We do realize that we have a town full of people that still need to eat and be taken care of. So, the ones who would open will be taking extra caution to make sure they keep everybody safe,” Calhoun said.
Officials in nearby Taos put in place an emergency curfew beginning at 10 p.m. Saturday. All alcohol sales were to be stopped during the emergency proclamation, which was posted on the town’s Facebook page.
The FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting the State Police with the investigation.
(LOS ANGELES) — One of the largest insurance agencies in the country will no longer accept applications for home and business insurance in California due to wildfire risks and the cost of rebuilding.
State Farm has ceased new applications, including all business and personal lines property and casualty insurance, starting Saturday, the company announced in a press release.
Existing customers will not be affected, and the company will continue to offer auto insurance in the state, according to the release.
The insurance agency cited “historic increases in construction costs outpacing inflation, rapidly growing catastrophe exposure, and a challenging reinsurance market” for its decision.
State Farm said while it takes its responsibility to manage risk “seriously” and will continue to work with state policymakers and the California Department of Insurance to help build market capacity in California, the decision was necessary to ensure the company remains in good financial standing.
“It’s necessary to take these actions now to improve the company’s financial strength,” the statement read. “We will continue to evaluate our approach based on changing market conditions. State Farm® independent contractor agents licensed and authorized in California will continue to serve existing customers for these products and new customers for products not impacted by this decision.”
A decadeslong megadrought and climate change have been exacerbating wildfire risk in California in recent years. Severe drought during the winter is leading to matchbox conditions in the dry season, allowing intense wildfires to ignite with the slightest spark.
The warm, dry climate that serves as fuel for wildfires is typical for much of the West, but hotter overall temperatures on Earth are increasing wildfire risk in the region.
Last year, the Mosquito Fire destroyed dozens of homes in El Dorado and Placer counties. In 2021, the Dixie Fire destroyed more than 100 homes in the town of Greenville.
The Creek Fire in 2020 became the largest single fire in California history, damaging or destroying nearly 1,000 structures and burning through about 380,000 acres.
Rebuilding from wildfire destruction is expensive, expensive, experts have found.
The reconstruction costs from the 2022 Coastal Fire in Southern California were estimated to be $530 million, and only 20 homes were destroyed, according to a report by property solutions firm CoreLogic.
In addition, the nationwide impact of California’s 2018 wildfire season — which included the Camp Fire, the most destructive in California history — totaled $148.5 billion in economic damage, according to a study by the University College London.
The state’s FAIR Plan provides basic fire insurance coverage for high-risk properties when traditional insurance companies will not, but that plan is the last resort, Janet Ruiz, director of strategic communication for the Insurance Information Institute, told ABC San Francisco station KGO.
“It’s a basic policy, only covers fire – you have to get a wraparound policy too to cover theft and liability,” she said.
(NEW YORK) — German automaker Mercedes-Benz has seen its share of the U.S. luxury market slip as customers traded in their V8 sedans and sport utility vehicles for Teslas. Now, the company is following in Tesla’s footsteps by building out its own charging network, accelerating its electrified fleet and adding Level 3 autonomous driving technology to its vehicles.
Mercedes’ goal is simple: Become the “most desirable electric vehicle luxury brand,” according to Dimitris Psillakis, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz North America.
Psillakis is helping oversee the company’s aggressive push toward EVs. The first Mercedes EV, the futuristic EQS sedan, debuted in October of 2021. Four more models, including three electric SUVs, promptly followed. The EQS SUV and EQE SUV are built at the company’s Tuscaloosa, Alabama, plant. Mercedes’ brand-new factory in Bibb County supplies the lithium-ion batteries. Mercedes aims to go fully electric by 2030.
“To be the most desirable electric vehicle luxury brand, we have to strike a balance between good products and good design but also supportive service,” Psillakis told ABC News. “We don’t see Tesla as a luxury competitor … we see Tesla as a disruptor in the automotive sector, especially when it comes to electric vehicles.”
Mercedes’ strategy seems to be working. It sold 7,341 EVs in the first quarter of 2023, an increase of 251% versus the prior year. Electric vehicles now account for 12% of the company’s sales in the U.S., the company said.
“Luxury buyers are more interested in EVs. They have higher disposable income and are tech orientated,” Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds, told ABC News. “Tesla redefined what it means to be luxury … but its market share is now decreasing. Tesla peaked in 2019 when it controlled 80% of the market.”
EVs now make up 6% of the U.S. automotive market. Range anxiety and public charging availability are still top reasons drivers are not switching to electrics, Caldwell said.
“Charging is still a big roadblock for customers,” she said. “Mercedes’ charging stations are a reassurance to customers and a good, though expensive, marketing strategy.”
The company’s charging network, which launches first in the U.S. and Canada and will be open to non-Mercedes models, could solve the country’s EV charging dilemma.
“The logic behind it is better service, convenience and taking away some worries customers have today on electric vehicles,” Psillakis said. “We care about the product … it’s our responsibility to offer the best convenience to our customers.”
Tony Quiroga, editor-in-chief of Car and Driver, said Tesla’s highly dependable supercharger network and extended-range models earned it a dedicated fan base. Premium brands like Mercedes are still struggling to overtake the ubiquitous Tesla Model 3 and Model Y, he argued, though Mercedes may be closing the gap. Tesla’s aging fleet could also convince consumers to look elsewhere, he argued.
“Mercedes doesn’t want to take a backseat to Tesla,” he told ABC News. “A charging network can be a big win for Mercedes.”
Quiroga pointed out that two Mercedes EVs — the EQ S450+ and EQ S580 — beat their EPA range estimates when Car and Driver staff conducted their extensive 75 mph tests on the vehicles.
“It’s very rare when a car beats its EPA numbers,” he said.
And Mercedes’ EV momentum will give it an edge over the competition, according to Robby Degraff, an analyst at AutoPacific.
“They’ve really hit all the right segments so far, from the larger EQS SUV to the EQE sedan,” he told ABC News. “If a loyal S-Class owner wants to go all-in on electrification, there should absolutely be a comparable EV, like the EQS sedan. That’s an approach and strategy I think Mercedes-Benz has really nailed down.”
Mercedes recently revealed the Mercedes-Maybach EQS 680 SUV, the first EV from the uber exclusive marque. The full-size SUV utilizes technology from the EQS SUV and is fitted with sustainably processed leather. Many of the vehicle’s parts and components are made from resource-saving materials, including secondary steel and recycled aluminum.
EVs, however, are expensive and Psillakis said Mercedes is not immune to rising interest rates and economic uncertainty.
“Obviously it’s affecting us, but we have a wide range of products in terms of style prices,” he said. “There is high demand for the new GLC. This vehicle is not affected at the moment by any high interest rates or inflation.”
EVs are one part of Mercedes’ long game; the company scored a “monumental achievement” when Nevada regulators certified its autonomous driving for public roads earlier this year. “Drive Pilot” will be included for model year 2024 S-Class and EQS models and is the only SEA Level 3 automated driving system approved by lawmakers, according to Mercedes. Psillakis said California may be the next state to approve the system, which operates at speeds up to 40 mph and is more technologically advanced than Tesla’s Autopilot feature.
“We have to make sure the expectation to customers is the right one and make sure the system is delivering,” Psillakis said.
The attention on EVs has not stopped Mercedes from perfecting its gas-powered SUVs and high-performance AMG models. Last month Mercedes revealed an updated E-Class midsize sedan and introduced the plug-in hybrid GLE 450e 4MATIC SUV. A new 2024 GLS model range will arrive in U.S. dealerships later this year.
“Mercedes is operating two companies at the same time,” said Caldwell. “Mercedes has an expansive EV lineup but the internal combustion vehicles are paying the bills. It’s expensive to run these two companies in parallel.”
Degraff said Mercedes’ internal combustion vehicles are still highly desirable and sought after by enthusiasts.
“Mercedes-Benz has been able to crank out seriously eye-watering performance just by tapping into mild hybridization and plug-in hybrids,” he said.
Psillakis dismissed concerns that the company’s fabled AMG division would lose its cachet in an EV world.
“EQS is electric and it is an AMG,” he said. “Yes, I do miss the sounds of a V8 engine. Do I miss the fun? The torque? The performance? No. AMG is not only sounds and horsepower. It’s also exclusivity, design and performance, which you can get in electric vehicles too.”
(WASHINGTON) — Deputy Homeland Security Secretary John Tien, a 24-year Army vet, now finds himself with a new challenge, handed down by Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas specifically because of his background: defeating, disrupting and dismantling Mexican drug cartels.
“These cartels are responsible for human smuggling, human trafficking, narcotics trafficking in particular, who are making, shipping and selling dangerous and deadly narcotics,” Tien told ABC News in an interview, laying blame with them for the spread of opioids like fentanyl.
Tien is one of the most senior law enforcement officials in the country. His status as a veteran isn’t so unique — there are about 54,000 others working at the department, or about 20% of employees — but it informs his work even out of the military.
So, too, does his heritage.
“As a first-generation Asian American, I know that I’ve got a responsibility to be both seen and heard,” he explained. (May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.)
The son of Chinese immigrants, Tien spent his early childhood in Pittsburgh. He learned from his mother “how to be a servant leader” and from his father how to lead a life of public service. That path began with a single conversation in the weight room.
“I really think you should consider West Point, not any of the other military academies, just West Point,” Tien recalls his father saying. “And I said, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘Because you wouldn’t be sitting here today, you wouldn’t be [an] American citizen, without the United States of America accepting our family, your grandfather’s family … through Ellis Island.'”
Tien followed his father’s advice, attending the U.S. Military Academy, where he became the first Asian American to serve as the first captain and brigade commander, the school’s top-ranked cadet position.
He ultimately served three tours in Iraq — with his first being Operation Desert Storm — then went on to both private sector and government work.
Decades later, Tien said his motto while at the academy — “duty, honor, country” — and the motto of the Department of Homeland Security are “essentially one and the same.”
“That motto literally is in my DNA. It’s my life credo,” he said. “And it has indeed been the throughline of my life and how I aspire to act and behave.”
When Mayorkas called him about a job in 2021, Mayorkas told him he has “the right combination of experience and skills at the right time for the nation,” said Tien, who previously worked on the National Security Council in the Bush and Obama White Houses.
“The way al-Qaida operates is very similar to the way the cartels operate,” he said.
(RED ROCK, N.M.) — Three people were killed and five others were injured in a shooting at an annual motorcycle rally in Red Rock, New Mexico, police said.
“The scene is secure, no ongoing threat to public safety,” New Mexico State Police said on Twitter.
One of the people injured in the shooting was airlifted to a hospital in Denver, authorities said. Police officers responded to “secure” two other hospitals, Holy Cross Medical Center and at The University of New Mexico Hospital, where injured people were being treated, State Police said.
As many as 28,000 bikers were expected to arrive in Red River this weekend for the 41st Annual Red River Memorial Day Motorcycle Rally, an annual event with live music.
Bikers from “all different backgrounds line Main Street for one crazy party,” according to the town’s website.
Officials in nearby Taos put in place an emergency curfew beginning at 10 p.m. Saturday. All alcohol sales were to be stopped during the emergency proclamation, which was posted on the town’s Facebook page.
“NMSP request the public to avoid Red River as we conduct our investigation,” State Police said.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was responding to help State Police with the investigation, the Phoenix Field Division said on Twitter.
Police updated the number of deaths to three in a statement on Twitter early on Sunday morning, revising an earlier statement saying two people had died.
(WASHINGTON) — A bipartisan majority of Congress will approve a compromise in the coming days to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and avert a historic default that could upend the economy while enforcing some limits on government spending, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy predicted on Sunday.
McCarthy, flanked by the two Republican negotiators who worked with him on brokering a debt and spending deal with the White House, spoke with reporters outside his office on Capitol Hill on Sunday.
He offered some specifics about the agreement with President Joe Biden while pushing back on already-emerging criticism from his party’s right flank that Republicans did not exact enough concessions on the federal government’s budget.
“I think people will look back and say, ‘Well I didn’t get exactly what I wanted.’ But there’s something in here that — it shouldn’t be about you, it should be about America,” McCarthy said. “America believes that we have spent too much, so this spends less.”
The bill “doesn’t get everything everybody wanted,” he acknowledged, “but that’s, in divided government, that’s what we end up with.”
McCarthy said he would speak with Biden again later Sunday, to review the finalized language of the legislation, and then the text will be posted publicly, starting a 72-hour clock that he has committed to members for reading the bill before a vote on Wednesday.
“This is a good, strong bill that a majority of Republicans will vote for,” the speaker told ABC News’ Trish Turner.
And with Biden’s backing, “I expect his party to be supportive as well,” McCarthy said.
While McCarthy and Reps. Garret Graves and Patrick McHenry, of Louisiana and North Carolina, deferred some details of the debt bill to the final text, expected to be released Sunday afternoon, they touted what they saw as major wins.
“This is the most conservative spending package in my service in Congress,” McHenry, a 10-term representative, said.
McCarthy again stressed that Republicans had forced Biden to reverse his monthslong insistence that the White House would only negotiate on the budget separate from any increase on the debt, with Democrats likening talks with Republicans under the threat of default to economic hostage-taking.
“It wasn’t until the final two weeks that we were really able to sit down,” McCarthy said.
The clock was ticking the whole time: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the federal government will run out of money to pay all of its bills by June 5 unless its $31.4 trillion borrowing limit is raised.
Such a default would risk undermining the credit of the U.S., which is a lynchpin of the international economy, and could delay payments on a swath of services including Social Security.
On Sunday, the speaker repeatedly praised both Graves and McHenry and Biden’s team of “professional,” “smart” and “tough” negotiators.
“The negotiations were intense, they were quite challenging,” McHenry told reporters. “The outcome of that is a fundamental shift in the spending trajectory in Washington.”
ABC News has previously reported that, according to sources familiar, the agreement is a two-year budget deal that would also separately raise the debt limit for two years while keeping non-defense spending roughly flat with current levels in fiscal year 2024 and increasing by 1% in 2025.
The agreement would phase in new work requirements for recipients of SNAP benefits — specifically time limits on the benefits for people up to age 54, excluding veterans and homeless people. Those new requirements would sunset in 2030, sources said.
The bill would fully fund medical care for veterans, including an extension of funding in the PACT Act, one source said.
And the deal would streamline the review process for certain energy projects.
McCarthy, Graves and McHenry on Sunday pointed to changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, in particular, and said that while government spending on defense and veterans would increase under the deal, other appropriations would fall below the 2022 level.
Ultimately, McCarthy and his negotiators said, Republicans could not enforce a more sweeping, 10-year spending reduction into the next Congress because future lawmakers would simply be able to vote to undue it.
McHenry said that the bill instead lays out, as one example, $704 billion in annual non-defense discretionary government spending while “hold[ing] vets harmless” — a rebuke of Democratic criticism that Republicans were seeking spending cuts that could affect vets.
The speaker was pressed several times by reporters on comments by some House Republicans that the debt deal doesn’t go far enough, especially in light of the Limit, Save, Grow Act that was passed along party lines in the House last month.
“This ‘deal’ is insanity. … Not gonna vote to bankrupt our country. The American people deserve better,” Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., tweeted.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., likewise shared his displeasure on social media. “Conservatives have been sold out once again!” he tweeted.
McCarthy played down reports of in-fighting, insisting more than 95% of his conference had been “overwhelmingly excited” about the compromise during an earlier conference call.
“Let’s let the members actually read the bill before they make a decision and go forward,” he told reporters.
He also brushed off the potential risk of a snap vote to boot him from the speakership, which any single member could trigger under an earlier deal McCarthy made to win the gavel in January.
“Not at all,” he said when asked if he was worried about such a move, known as a motion to vacate.
The GOP holds only a narrow majority in the House right now. Passing a debt compromise theoretically would require at least a bare majority of Republicans — with enough Democrats to make up for any conservative defections.
In a “dear colleague” letter shared Sunday morning, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told Democrats that the Biden administration would brief them later in the day on the terms of the deal.
Jeffries made no commitments about the scope of his caucus’ support but struck an optimistic tone on raising the borrowing limit: “I am thankful to President Biden for his leadership in averting a devastating default and look forward to our collective discussion,” he wrote.
McCarthy told reporters that he has spoken to Jeffries multiple times and spoke with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Saturday.
The speaker first announced a deal in principle on Saturday night, after weeks of talks with Democrats and a seesawing tone from both sides on the ultimate fate of any agreement.
In a brief statement Saturday, Biden said their compromise was “an important step forward that reduces spending while protecting critical programs for working people and growing the economy for everyone.”
“I strongly urge both chambers to pass the agreement right away,” the president said.
ABC News’ Lauren Peller contributed to this report.
(WASHINGTON) — Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced at a brief presser on Saturday night that House Republicans and the White House have reached a tentative deal to raise the federal government’s debt limit, ending a monthslong stalemate.
“I just got off the phone with the president — I talked to him twice today — and after weeks of negotiations, we have come to an agreement in principle,” McCarthy said, emerging from his office shortly after 9 p.m. ET on Saturday. “We still have a lot of work to do.”
McCarthy, who did not take any questions from the press, laid out next steps for the deal, including plans to post the text on Sunday and vote on the bill on Wednesday.
“I expect to finish the writing of the bill, checking in with the White House and speaking to the president again tomorrow afternoon and then posting the text of it tomorrow and be voting on it on Wednesday,” he said.
The speaker was light on specific details regarding the bill, instead calling it “an agreement in principle that’s worthy of the American people.”
“It has historically reductions in spending, consequential reforms that will lift people out of poverty into the workforce, reign in government overreach. There are no new taxes, no government programs,” McCarthy said.
The agreement is a two-year budget deal that would also separately raise the debt limit for two years, sources familiar with the negotiations told ABC News.
Sources said the budget deal would keep non-defense spending roughly flat with current levels in fiscal year 2024, increasing by 1% in 2025.
One source said the negotiating team is now working on finalizing bill text and a term sheet. House Democrats are invited to a members-only White House briefing on Sunday at 5 p.m., per one source.
The agreement phases in new work requirements for recipients of SNAP benefits — specifically time limits on the benefits for people up to age 54, excluding veterans and homeless people. Those new requirements would sunset in 2030, sources said.
There are no changes to Medicaid requirements, sources added.
The agreement also fully funds medical care for veterans, including an extension of funding in the PACT Act, one source said. And it would streamline the review process for certain energy projects.
President Joe Biden issued a statement on the agreement in principle, calling it “an important step forward” and a “compromise” as the White House and Congress continue to finalize the text of the bill.
“It is an important step forward that reduces spending while protecting critical programs for working people and growing the economy for everyone. And, the agreement protects my and Congressional Democrats’ key priorities and legislative accomplishments,” Biden said.
“The agreement represents a compromise, which means not everyone gets what they want. That’s the responsibility of governing,” he said.
Biden said the deal will prevent “what could have been a catastrophic default and would have led to an economic recession, retirement accounts devastated, and millions of jobs lost” — though the deal will have to pass both chambers of Congress and get to his desk by June 5 to do so.
Given the tight timeline, Biden said work would continue between both sides and “I strongly urge both chambers to pass the agreement right away.”
The breakthrough on the government’s debt and spending comes just days before the so-called “X-date” when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned the U.S. would run out of cash to pay all of its bills on time.
A tentative deal will have to pass the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate.
Time is of the essence to push the deal through before potential default. McCarthy has pledged to give House members 72 hours to review the legislation before a vote. And in the Senate, it would only take one lawmaker to possibly delay approval for up to a week.
Wings from both parties expressed dissatisfaction during talks and encouraged their respective leaders to stand their ground.
The House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative hardliners who held up McCarthy’s ascension to the speakership, signaled opposition to anything other than the Limit, Save, Grow Act passed in the House last month and said a major overhaul of the government’s spending is needed.
On the other side of the aisle, several progressive Democrats warned they would push back on any deal that gave too many concessions to Republicans, arguing that negotiating on the budget with default looming amounted to economic hostage-taking by the GOP.
The fight over the debt ceiling has threatened to sink the economy.
Economists have warned the U.S. being unable to fulfill financial obligations would put millions of jobs at risk, increase unemployment levels and lead to higher prices for everyday items.
A default could also result in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid payments — as well as military pay and veterans benefits — going unpaid or being delayed.
As the negotiations came down to the wire, Americans who depend on those checks expressed growing concern and anxiety surrounding their ability to pay rent, buy groceries and other daily expenses if default were to occur.
Air Force veteran Jacob Thomas in Minneapolis told ABC News’ Elizabeth Schulze the uncertainty over default was already hitting American military families.
“Even if a deal is reached, everything winds up being okay next week, that still means that right now, families and veterans across the country are having to think about what does it mean for me to have to ration my current paycheck or my current disability paycheck,” Thomas said.
(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — Newly released surveillance footage shows a dramatic shootout between a North Carolina public bus driver and passenger while the bus was in motion.
The shooting occurred on May 18 on a Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) bus, after the passenger asked the driver to get off between stops near the Steele Creek Premium Outlet Mall, the transportation agency said.
During an approximately two-minute exchange, the passenger, identified by authorities as 22-year-old Omarri Shariff Tobias — can be heard saying, “I dare you. I dare you to touch me. I’m going to pop your a–,” in the footage, released Friday by CATS.
Tobias then walks away and can be seen pulling a firearm out of his jacket pocket, as two other passengers are visible seated on the bus, before moving back towards the front door of the bus and turning to face the driver.
The driver, identified by CATS as David Fullard, then pulls out his own firearm and both exchange rapid gunfire. CATS said it has been unable to determine who fired first. Multiple bullet holes can be seen in a transparent partition that separates the driver from passengers.
The driver then stopped the bus and left his seat as Tobias crawled his way toward the rear of the bus. The two bystander passengers had also quickly moved to the rear of the bus during the exchange of gunfire.
The driver continued to fire his gun after the initial exchange, the video shows. While standing in the aisle, he fired toward the rear of the bus where Tobias was ducking for cover. After Tobias and another bystander were able to open the rear door and exit, Fullard exited from the bus’ front door and fired at Tobias again, CATS said.
Both men were struck by gunfire in the shooting — the driver in the arm and the passenger in the abdomen — and transported to a local hospital, CATS said. Both are expected to recover from their injuries, the agency said.
One of the bystanders could be seen tumbling to the ground as Tobias exited the bus, though both bystanders were unharmed in the incident, CATS said.
Officers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department responded to the scene and confiscated both firearms, police said.
CATS interim CEO Brent Cagle called the incident a “tragic expression of the gun violence in our community.”
“We will not be able to solve this problem on our own. However, CATS is committed to doing what we can to address this with our partners at CMPD, and our partners at RATP Dev who employ and manage our bus operators,” Cagle said in a statement on Wednesday.
Tobias has since been arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injuries, communicating threats and carrying a concealed firearm, police said. He is currently detained at the Mecklenburg County jail, online inmate records show. It is unclear if he has an attorney who can speak on his behalf.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has not yet announced whether charges will be brought against Fullard, who has been fired, CATS said.
Fullard was an employee of RATP Dev/Transit Management, which does not allow employees to carry weapons while working, CATS said.
Fullard’s attorney said he had the gun because he didn’t feel safe on the job, ABC Charlotte affiliate WSOC reported.
CATS said it also determined that Fullard did not follow standard safety protocols, including de-escalation, during the altercation.
“Ninety-nine percent of CATS transit happens without any operator needing to engage emergency protocols. In this case, the operator did not leverage any,” CATS said, noting that Fullard could have just let the passenger off the bus between the stops in an attempt to de-escalate the situation.