Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Hillsborough

Man accused in HART driver slaying found mentally incompetent

Justin McGriff will be transferred to Florida State Hospital to be treated and, if possible, made competent to stand trial.
In this image from the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office killer Justin McGriff is seen just prior to slashing the throat of HART bus driver Thomas Dunn, prosecutors say. [PHOTO COURTESY OF HILLSBOROUGH S  |  Photo courtesy of Hillsborough S]
In this image from the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office killer Justin McGriff is seen just prior to slashing the throat of HART bus driver Thomas Dunn, prosecutors say. [PHOTO COURTESY OF HILLSBOROUGH S | Photo courtesy of Hillsborough S]
Published Aug. 23, 2019

TAMPA — A man accused of slitting the throat of a public bus driver as he drove down Nebraska Avenue is not mentally competent to stand trial, a judge ruled Friday.

Circuit Judge Christopher Sabella issued the ruling after reviewing the findings of two court-appointed experts who evaluated Justin McGriff, a 36-year-old Tampa man charged with first degree murder in the May 18 slaying of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority driver Thomas Dunn.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Psychologists Jennifer Barror-Levine and Fred Farzanegan were tasked with determining whether McGriff “has sufficient present ability to consult with the defendant’s lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and whether the defendant has a rational, as well as factual, understanding of the proceedings,” according to a judge’s July order appointing them.

Sabella ordered McGriff transferred to Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee to undergo treatment and make him competent to stand trial, if possible.

Bus driver Thomas Dunn speaks about driver safety at a Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority board meeting in December. Dunn, a 46-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran, was killed May 20 by passenger Justin McGriff, who slit his throat as he drove the MetroRapid bus down Nebraska Avenue, police said. [TONY MARRERO | YouTube]

According to testimony and footage and audio captured by the bus’s surveillance system, McGriff walked from the back of the bus clenching a knife in his hand and spoke briefly to Dunn as he drove south on Nebraska near Linebaugh Avenue.

“God bless you,” McGriff said

"What was that?" Dunn said.

"God bless you," he said again.

"Thank you," Dunn said. "God bless you, too."

McGriff then lunged forward, slitting Dunn’s throat, prosecutors say.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Slain HART driver chose busy route because he ‘loved people,’ friend says

Dunn steered the bus to the right and began to slow down as he slumped against his seat belt. McGriff moved to the door, looked back at the driver, then forced his way out. Tampa police officers arrested him a short time later after a brief foot chase.

Dunn, 46, died on the bus shortly after the attack.

Prosecutors have said the attack appears to be random. Court records show that people who knew McGriff told police he had been behaving erratically for several days before the killing.

Justin Ryan McGriff, 36, is seen in his booking photo taken on May 20. [TONY MARRERO | Tampa Police Department]

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. LaKendria Robinson is the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee's director for community outreach and the Business Connect program. [Courtesy of the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee] [Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee]
    The NFL’s Business Connect seeks to put local businesses owned by women, minorities, veterans and LGBTQ entrepreneurs in a position to compete for Super Bowl contracts.
  2. Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden (left) and Public Defender for the 13th Judicial Circuit Julianne Holt received the Tampa Tiger Bay Club's fourth annual Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday. [ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Times]
    Public Defender Julianne Holt and Tax Collector Doug Belden were awarded the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa’s fourth annual Lifetime Achievement Award Monday.
  3. Authorities say these six suspects are responsible for at least two dozen home burglaries in unincorporated Hillsborough and Pasco counties and the city of Tampa. Top row, from left: Arleys Bonet Mustelier; Alain Rodriguez Roig and Ernesto Hinojosa. Bottom row, from left: Yarisley Cuervo Reyes; Yuniel Hinojosa-Gallardo and Yasmani Hernandez Rodriguez. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
    Investigators said they served a search warrant at one of the suspect’s homes and it was like a jewelry store in stolen stuff.
  4. Chris Murray with the Downtowner ride service drops off a passenger in the Channelside area. The popular free service is now in jeopardy. [Times (2017)]
    Money for the service runs out March 31. Members of the Hillsborough transit agency board are reluctant to pay for it.
  5. The statue of John Harvard sits in Harvard Yard at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Federal prosecutors on Tuesday charged Charles Lieber, chair of the department of chemistry and chemical biology, with lying to officials about his involvement with a recruitment program run by the Chinese government. Prosecutors said he received tens of thousands of dollars through the program. [CHARLES KRUPA  |  Associated Press]
    Charles Lieber was arrested in his campus office Tuesday, accused of lying about his participation in China’s Thousand Talents program.
  6. Members Pat Kemp, left, and Kathleen Shanahan quarreled over contracts during a Hillsborough Area Regional Transit committee meeting. [Courtesy of Pat Kemp, Kathleen Shanahan]
    Beset by an investigation and a court case, the authority sees tempers flare between members Kathleen Shanahan and Pat Kemp.
  7. A look at the construction on the Tierra Verde bridge project which is the bridge between Isla Del Sol and Tierra Verde islands on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020 in St. Petersburg. The project began in December 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2021. [DIRK SHADD  |  DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]
    Dr. Delay takes a deep dive into the construction process for the $56.3 million State Road 679 and Bayway Bridge project .
  8. Council member Joseph Citro, seen here in June, was one of three council members to attend the Jan. 23 community meeting at the Fair Oaks Center in East Tampa. He agrees with residents that a new center is needed instead of repairs to the existing facility. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Mayor Jane Castor has committed to renovating Fair Oaks Center, but speakers at a recent standing-room-only meeting demanded a new community center.
  9. Patron vie for beads while attending in the 103nd Gasparilla Invasion and Parade of the Pirates presented by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla on Saturday, January 25, 2020, in downtown Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    Hundreds of thousands flock to Tampa each year for the pirate invasion, but other events across the country cast doubt on the ranking.
  10. Alexander Bradford Jacobson, of Land O Lakes, smelled like marijuana and had a blood alcohol level just over the legal limit when he caused a wrong-way crash near the Tampa International Airport on Sunday, records show. [Tampa Police Department]
    Alexander Jacobson, the driver who caused the crash, smelled like marijuana and had a blood alcohol level just over the legal limit more than four hours after the crash, records show.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement