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Assailant in bus attack told driver, 'God bless you,' before slitting his throat, report says

Justin Ryan McGriff, 35, was arrested on a charge of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of a Hillsborough Area Regional Transit bus driver, according to police. [Tampa Police Department]
Justin Ryan McGriff, 35, was arrested on a charge of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of a Hillsborough Area Regional Transit bus driver, according to police. [Tampa Police Department]
Published May 20, 2019

Click here to read this story in Spanish

TAMPA — As Thomas Dunn steered a public bus down Nebraska Avenue, passenger Justin McGriff walked up and said something strange.

"God bless you," McGriff told Dunn, repeating the phrase a second time.

Then, a Tampa police arrest report says, McGriff slit Dunn's throat with some sort of sharp weapon, severing his carotid and jugular arteries. Dunn, 46, died on the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit bus.

The new details about Saturday's killing are included in the arrest report released Monday that outlines the evidence police collected before charging McGriff with first degree murder in Dunn's death.

READ MORE: Tampa bus driver killed in stabbing had complained about safety issues

Police also released a 75-second 911 call, made by a passenger, that conveys the chaos that broke out on the bus about 4:15 p.m.

"This guy just stabbed the bus driver in the neck," the caller says over the sound of other passengers shouting in the background.

The operator asks if the assailant is still on the bus.

"He ran off," the caller said. "We was on the bus at it was driving so he jumped off as it was still moving. The guy slit his neck, sir. The guy is actually dead right now, the driver."

Traveling the MetroRapid express route between the University Area Transit Center and downtown Tampa, the bus was equipped with video and audio surveillance system that captured the incident.

As he bled from his throat, Dunn still managed to bring the bus to stop, police said. Responding officers and Tampa Fire Rescue crews tried live-saving measures but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officers tried to stop McGriff, 35, near Interstate 275 because he fit the description provided by witnesses. He fled on foot. He was caught on the interstate after a brief foot chase and arrested on a charge of resisting arrest. Detectives worked through the night Saturday and, based on the video evidence and witness accounts, added the murder charge, police said.

The report says the video does not show any provocation on Dunn's part, which is consistent with what witnesses told investigators. Police said in a statement Monday there is still no clear motive for the attack.

One witness told police he was "fearful of the defendant" after seeing him behaving erratically during the previous three or four days.

Records show McGriff was being held without bail Monday in the Hillsborough County Jail.

Contact Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or tmarrero@tampabay.com. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

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