The driver of a commuter bus who struck and killed a homeless man near Union Station earlier this month was arrested and charged yesterday with negligent homicide. Carlos Alberto Garcia had just been talking on his cell phone as his bus hit the man, according to an affidavit filed in court.
Garcia, 48, of the 5700 Block of Thomas Edison Court in Alexandria, pleaded not guilty yesterday in D.C. Superior Court.
Garcia told police that he was on a call to his wife just before he began turning onto North Capitol Street from E Street NW, according to the affidavit.
The call was disconnected at the point of the turn, Garcia said in the affidavit. While into the turn, the bus hit William Norris, 49, who was crossing the street within the marked crosswalk area.
Garcia said he never saw Norris until he looked in his side mirror and spotted the injured man lying on the ground. Garcia was arrested by the major crash unit of the D.C. police at 7:30 a.m. yesterday.
In court yesterday, Garcia declined to be interviewed. He was released on his own recognizance, but ordered not to drive in the District. He is scheduled to return to court Oct. 6 for a hearing.
Advocates for the poor called the charge a victory for the homeless. Members of Norris's family described it as a step toward justice.
Two weeks before he was killed, Norris called his sister in Baltimore and told her he didn't want to live on the streets anymore. He asked if he could move in with her family. She said yes.
"He was so close. I still think about it every day," said William Cash, Norris's stepson. "It's been very hard."
Witnesses said both the rear and front wheels of the bus passed over Norris's body, according to the affidavit. He died of massive trauma to his head and body.
Yellow Transportation Inc., which runs the Loudoun County Yellow Motor Coach Co., had no comment on the case yesterday.
In the homeless community, Norris was known as a good man whose heart never healed after his wife, "Gerry," died. He tried to help others like him. He spent many hours scrubbing vegetables and cleaning tables at the House of Imagene, said the Rev. Imagene B. Stewart, who runs the shelter for homeless families where Norris often stayed.
"Today is a good day," Stewart said. Too often crimes against the homeless go unnoticed, Stewart and other advocates said yesterday.
The Rev. John Adams, of So Others Might Eat, a D.C. soup kitchen, said he was elated that the incident was investigated.
"I think no matter what, homeless people are people and they are part of our community. They deserve the same rights and respect of anyone," Adams said. "I think it's a resurrection victory for him and his memory."