Thea Arnette Cobb had to be awakened at 11 p.m. a week ago Sunday after failing asleep in front of the television set at her girl friend's house. The X-2 Metrobus which stops nearby would take her to a second bus which would take her home to Quincy Street NW where her 6-year-old daughter was waiting with her grandmother.
But Cobb, 27, never completed the bus ride home.
During the trip, she was shot and wounded while standing on the bus after a young tough challenged her about a book of matches. As she later told police, she did not realize at first that she had been shot. She felt a "sharp kick," she told them, but no pain until she stepped off the bus.
After the brief encounter that resulted in the shooting, Cobb recalled that three teen-age girls who had been sitting in the back of the bus inquired if she was all right. That occurred when she and the girls got off the bus together.
Cobb cannot remember if any of several other passengers offered to help. The bus apparently did not; he completed his run. Cobb was hospitalized with a gunshot wound in the right thigh. The gunman is still at large.
The driver, S.F. Sealey, did not report the incident until after police contacted the bus company, according to Metrobus officials.Police said Tuesday they had not been able to interview the bus driver, who reportedly was out of town for two days last week, transit officials said.
Because Cobb did not tell the driver that she had been shot, it is not clear whether he realized the gravity of the incident.
Det. John Jenkins, who is investigating the case, said police have no witnesses.
"By the time the police got involved, the only one we could track down (who was on the bus) is the bus driver," he said.
Cobb gave police this account of the incident:
She said she boarded a Metrobus bound for Lafayette Square at Bladensburg Road and Maryland Avene NE. She planned to transfer at 6th and H Streets NE.
Minutes after she took a seat on the bus, Cobb recalled, a man in the back asked three girls if they had matches. They said they did not and the man then told them he was going up front "to mess with (Cobb)." He asked Cobb for a match and she, too, said she had none. "You think you're too uppity to give me a match," she quoted him as saying to her.
Suddenly, Cobb said she felt a thump on the back of her head. In response, she turned around, stood up and using the umbrella in her lap, hit the man who had asked for matches. He called out to the bus driver to stop the bus, then winding along Benning Road, and he tugged on the bell cord.
The driver slowed the bus, and Cobb took a seat the man had vacated - she was two seats ahead of the rear door on the driver's side. When the bus reached a stop at 10th and H Streets, the man opened the rear door, started down the stops, then turned back toward Cobb.
"I got something for you, and you'll always remember me, bitch," he told her. He produced a small-caliber automatic handgun and fired a shot, striking her in the right thigh as she stood up. Then he ran out into the night. The times was 11:45 p.m., and Cobb had been on the bus only five blocks.
During the encounter, Cobb recalled, she sensed that about seven passengers, including the three girls, were on the bus and turned at some point to look at her. Metrobus officials say about 12 persons were aboard.
Four blocks after being shot, Cobb left the bus as she normally would at 16th and H Streets. So did the three teen-age girls, the only other females on the bus. "They asked me if I was all right," she recalled. "One girl said, 'You was lucky. We saw him playing with that thing (the gun) and saying he was going to mess with you."
When she had trouble walking after getting off the bus, she realized she had been shot. Instead of transferring to another bus, she hailed a cab and asked the driver to take her home.
When Cobb mentioned that she thought she had been shot, the cabbie said he would take her to the hospital and call police.
The cabbie drove to a police station at 5th Street and New York Avenue NW where police called on ambulance that took Cobb to George Washington Unversity Hospital.
At 12:01 a.m., a call went out over police radios throughout the city - look out for a black male, about 19 years old, 5-foot-5, 130 pounds, black hair, medium complexion, wearing a brown pea coat, armed with a small handgun, last seen fleeing on foot at 6th and H Streets NE.
Metrobus remained unaware of the incident until police called the company's radio dispatchers at 12:16 a.m., according to Metrobus records. Metrobus officials then called the driver on a two-way radio in the bus.
In that conversation, which apparently took place about 2 a.m., the driver reported that he knew two persons had scuffled, that he had heard a loud noise, that a man got off the bus at New Jersey Avenue and that a woman got off on 6th Street. He said he had checked and found no blood on the bus.
In a second talk with bus company officials, Sealey said he did not recognize the sound as a gun shot. The driver could not be reached for comment.
According to a spokesman, Metrobus policy is that a driver is to notify dispatchers in a written report of any "unusual occurrences" on buses when the driver's shift ends. The policy does not mention the two-way radios because the radios were installed on each bus only last June, the spokesman said.
Whether the driver should use his radio in emergencies is a matter of the driver's judgment, the spokesman said.
"If he knew what was going on, he should notify the dispatcher or the police. That's what they (the radios) are for," said Angus B. MacLean, security director for Metrobus. "But in my opinion, the driver didn't know it had happened."
"I still don't understand why nobody did anything," Cobb said as she recuperated at the hospital.
Slightly more than two years, Dennis A. Banks, 22, was shot and killed outside a Metrobus after he tried to help a bus driver collect fares from youths who refused to pay.
Last month alone, according to Metrobus records, Metro police made 37 arrests and issued 848 warnings when a plainclothes team made a special effort to police city buses. Most citations were for fare evasion.
Another 16 arrests were made aboard buses by D.C. police for various offenses, mostly pocketbook snatchings. Another 42 incidents were reported by drivers, although it is not known how many were made via the two-way radio.
Cobb, a native Washingtonian who enrolled last week as a computer science student at Washington Technical Institute, is now back home with her daughter. Cobb says her mother no longer wants Cobb out of the house after dark.