Uniontown man ‘borrows’ WAPT bus

Published 7:45 pm Saturday, May 16, 2009

A group of young people took the phrase “taking the bus” very literally Thursday night, as they took a West Alabama Public Transportation bus for a spin. A short time later, they were riding with Demopolis police.

“We got a call at about 10 p.m. Thursday night,” said Demopolis police chief Tommie Reese. “West Alabama Public Transporta-tion has a bus lot on Third Avenue and Jackson Street, and somebody called and said one of the buses had been stolen.

“We went to the lot, and witnesses said that several white males and females were on the bus. We patrolled the area and couldn’t find anything, but we stayed in the area.”

Email newsletter signup

The bus had been taken down Arcola Road to Arcola Landing before it made its return trip to town.

“About an hour and a half later, we spotted a vehicle coming back in,” Reese said. “We spotted the SUV that had come in initially, and we stopped them and put them in custody.

“We contacted the bus and were able to get him to bring the bus back, but when he saw the police cars, he took off running. There was a short pursuit, and he was apprehended without incident.”

Arrested was Brandon Michael Gibbs, 18, of Uniontown, who was charged with theft of property (first degree). Reese said that Gibbs was driving the bus. He added that the bus had been returned undamaged. Other suspects taken into custody were released, although more charges could be filed. Gibbs was being held in the Marengo County Jail on Friday on an unspecified bond.

Reese said the keys to the bus had been left inside the vehicle overnight, allowing the suspects to take the bus off the lot.

“Basically, this was a graduation joyride,” he said. “It’s a dangerous thing, because if you’re not versed in driving a bus, you could have an accident, kill yourself or somebody else.”

Bobby Armstead, the executive director of West Alabama Public Transportation, said it had been years since a WAPT bus had been stolen. He said the last time it had happened, drivers would leave the keys on the bus between shifts, and someone had taken advantage of that.

“We will make new protocols and take measures to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he said.