Bus attack shocks CA

BY RACHEL CLARK | FRESNO, Calif. | October 1, 2002

"How does a person get like that?"

—Rev. Stephen Carlson

Two passengers died in a bus crash Monday evening after a 27-year-old transient allegedly slashed a Greyhound bus driver's throat with a pair of scissors. The attack caused the bus to roll over and skid into a field just off a freeway in Fresno, Calif.

Members of the local faith-based community weren’t called on for an immediate response, but the incident left a mark on the farming community located between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

"He (the driver) struggled, tried to defend himself and lost control of the bus," said Lt. Margaret Mims of the Fresno County Sheriff's Department, who also said the attack was not related to terrorism.

Twenty-seven people were taken to local hospitals -- three of whom were in critical condition Tuesday morning -- and the driver and assailant survived. Other passengers suffered minor injuries.

"Without knowing who did what or why or any of those things, I guess I'd say that things like that just kind of jump out at you and kind of remind you that evil is real," said the Rev. Stephen Carlson of Bethel Lutheran Church in Fresno. "Thank God we have God to help us in those moments when such insanity does occur."

The Rev. Lee Cruise, of the Fresno First Congregational United Church of Christ, hadn't heard of the violent incident, but said that her congregation has prayed for peace in the past. "We do have a basic policy of being ready for any kind of disaster or problem," she said. "We haven't been asked to do anything for this particular incident, but we pray in this church on a regular basis for peace and justice."

According to Cruise, the large immigrant population, high poverty level and variety of languages in the Fresno area lead to a mixture of conflicts between people. "I wouldn't call it violent," she said. "But it has all the problems of a city with a large poverty level."

Racial differences, drugs and gangs are a stark contrast to the small-town atmosphere prevalent in the city, Carlson said.

"It's a very mixed society religiously and racially, so we kind of have the small town character -- there's a lot of human connections as far as family and friendships -- but it has all the large-city problems," he said.

Carlson's initial response to the incident was to view it as a call to reach out to hurting people.

"Perhaps it's a call, maybe a reminder, that we need to -- as a society -- address those factors that can cause or can lead to something like this," he said. "How does a person get like that? What molded them in that way and why, and could there have been anything that could have countered that?

"We basically believe of course there is: Christ. But how did this person or persons miss out on that?"

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