Silver Spring Teenager Fatally Shot On Md. Bus

By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 3, 2008

In a rare spasm of violence that terrified passengers on a crowded Montgomery County bus, a gunman killed a 14-year-old boy and seriously wounded two other teenagers Saturday night after arguing with them moments earlier, police said.

The shooter was in a group of three to five people who had words with Tai Lam and his friends as the Ride On bus approached Piney Branch Road and Arliss Street in Silver Spring about 11 p.m., according to police. They said that the first group got off the bus at that stop and that the gunman then turned and fired several shots at the teenagers inside.

Lam, a freshman honor student and wrestler at Montgomery Blair High School, was pronounced dead a short time later at a hospital. The other victims, ages 14 and 15, were in serious condition yesterday, police said.

Lam Cao, the 16-year-old brother of the slain teenager, also was on the bus and disputed the police account of an argument, saying that the shooting was unprovoked.

Cao said the gunman with the gelled hair jerked his hand toward his waist as if he was about to pull a gun on those he'd taunted earlier. Cao said he flinched, not sure whether the gesture was serious. A moment later, he said, he watched in disbelief as the man repeated the move but this time began firing.

Cao said that one member of the shooter's group held the door of the bus open as the gunman fired.

"It was like he just wanted to shoot anybody," Cao said, flashing back to the instant before his brother screamed, "I'm shot!"

After the shooting, Cao said, the bus driver stepped on the gas and the bus lurched forward, allowing the automatic door to close. The bus went 20 to 30 feet before coming to a stop, and people on the bus began dialing 911, he said. Ambulances then arrived, he added.

Cao said about a third of the passengers were high-school students and the rest were other commuters.

Lt. Paul Starks, a Montgomery County police spokesman, said detectives are investigating whether the shooting was gang-related. It occurred less than two miles from Langley Park, which is just across the border in Prince George's County. Langley Park and neighboring communities have contended with rising gang violence in recent years, including homicides and assaults attributed to MS-13.

Police said the suspected shooter appeared older than the victims and described him as a Hispanic man in his early 20s. They did not release the names of the two wounded teenagers.

Starks said he could not recall a similar crime taking place on a county bus. "It's certainly disturbing to hear about," he said. "This happens very infrequently, if at all, in Montgomery County."

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