A knife-weilding man boarded a Metrobus in Northeast Washington last night, ordered the passengers off and forced the driver to chauffer him to his estranged wife's house, on the sidewalk, through a fence and up to her front door.
A tense standoff followed between the man, who held an eight-inch blade to the driver's throat, and District police officers who had followed the bus, until the man was finally overpowered.
"It was one of my worst experiences," said driver Jesse Parker, while being treated last night for possible neck injuries. "I've never had anything like this before."
Police said they arrested Louis Parker, 31, of no fixed address and charged him with kidnapping while armed. The suspect and driver are not related.
According to accounts provided by police and the bus driver, the incident began about 6:15 p.m. when the bus, eastbound on the G16 route, was at Ninth Street and Rhode Island Avenue NE, with about 25 or 30 passengers on board.
A man who had just boarded approached the driver, brandishing what appeareda to be a kitchen knife, and ordered all passengers off.
Then, occasionally emphasizing his words with jabs of the knife toward the driver's ribs, he began giving him instructions.
"He told me to do exactly what he said to do," Jesse Parker recalled later.
The bus, on the Avondale route, which began its run at 11th and E streets NW, was supposed to end the run at Michigan and Eastern avenues NE.
Standing next to the driver's seat, the man ordered Parker to take him instead to Michigan Avenue and Allison Street NE.
Meanwhile, at least one of the passengers forced from the bus apparently telephoned police and the driver activated the bus' silent alarm, which also notifies police of trouble.
A police helicopter began following the bus from the air, and several police cars, their lights flashing, fell in behind it. The man with the knife saw them.
"Don't make no funny moves," he ordered the driver, as the bus rolled on.
At Michigan and Allison, where the man's estranged wife lives, the driver recalled, "he told me to drive the bus right up to the door."
According to the driver, the man wanted the bus placed so that his wife could stand in the doorway of the house and he could stand in the bus and the two could talk.
Police surrounded the bus at the house. Parker said they tried to ask him what grievances he had, to persuade him he did not want to hurt anyone and to tell him to put down the knife.
But Parker said the man grabbed him around the neck and held the knife to his throat. "He almost choked me to death," Parker said.
Then, Parker said, "he finally decided to turn me loose . . . He sort of turned his back to me." Parker grabbed and grappled with the man, police swarmed aboard the bus, and Parker passed out.
"He had choked me nearly to death," said the 50-year-old driver, a Maryland resident who joined Metro last February and is based at the Bladensburg Road garage. "After I wrestled with him, it took the rest of my wind away."
Parker was taken first to Providence Hospital then to the Group Health Association offices on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. "I'm still shaking," he said last night, "My neck is really sore . . . I'm glad it's over with."