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Atlanta bus hijacking suspect interviewed as witness after food court shooting

The man who hijacked a bus in Atlanta on Tuesday and shot dead a passenger witnessed a shooting at a downtown food court hours earlier, authorities said, and rambled about his mental state in an interview with reporters.

Suspect Joseph Greer, 39, was arrested Tuesday after holding the bus driver at gunpoint and taking the remaining 17 passengers hostage, leading police on a wild chase through multiple jurisdictions.

Greer was booked into the Fulton County Jail on more than 20 charges, including murder, 14 counts of kidnapping, 13 counts of aggravated assault, hijacking a motor vehicle and possession of a firearm.

Just hours earlier, as police responded to a shooting in the food court at the Peachtree Centre complex, Greer had rambled on to reporters about his mental health, criminal history and banking history.

Joseph Greer, 39 (Fulton County Sheriff’s Office)

A distraught Greer said he suffers from bipolar disorder and hasn’t taken his medication for “about two weeks.” He said he felt like a “snitch” for describing what he saw, according to the Associated Press report.

Greer told reporters he was in a “breaking point” when he saw the shooter. He spoke about the importance of protecting himself, pulled a box cutter from his pocket and repeatedly said he couldn’t have access to a gun because he has a felony conviction.

“I protect myself. I don’t have access to a gun, you know what I mean?” he said. “So I protect myself as if I were in chains. I’ve been in prison.”

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Greer reportedly saw the suspected shooter confront a woman outside the food court and then fled after the shooting, according to police.

Video captured by FOX 5 Atlanta shows Greer appearing upset while speaking with authorities at the scene.

Shortly after being interviewed, Greer allegedly hijacked a commuter bus, ordered the driver at gunpoint to step on the gas, and panicked passengers. Authorities say Greer shot and killed one passenger and led police on a dramatic multi-jurisdictional police chase before the bus came to a halt about 40 minutes later.

Peachtree Center

The four were shot at the Peachtree Center in Atlanta, Georgia. (X/@Dreman1731)

Police said Greer was on a bus bound for a park-and-ride in rural Gwinnett County, 26 miles away. Australian Police Chief Darin Schierbaum told reporters that investigators do not believe Greer had a gun when he boarded the bus.

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At one point, Greer got into an argument with passenger Ernest Byrd Jr. When Byrd, 58, pulled out a gun, Greer grabbed it and shot Byrd, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Greer then threatened to shoot the driver if he pulled over.

The rush-hour chase saw the bus zig-zagging between freeway lanes and country roads, slamming into other vehicles and crossing into oncoming traffic. Police punctured a tire on the bus, but it continued on until a state trooper fired a rifle into its engine, forcing it to stop, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Atlanta bus hijacked

A bus speeds down an Atlanta highway, fleeing from police. (My)

Schierbaum said investigators had not found any connection between Greer and Jeremy Malone, 34, who is accused of opening fire in the food court, wounding three people, before being shot and killed by an off-duty Atlanta police officer.

Schierbaum and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said they believe Greer’s behavior was likely related to a mental illness.

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“Did he have a brief moment of insanity caused by the police sirens or the noises he heard, or was he already in a state of insanity that day and just being there?” Dickens said. “All of that will affect the investigation.”

There were 17 people on the bus, including the driver, said Seelbaum. Byrd was taken to a hospital where he later died.

Mayor Dickens said both shootings on Tuesday were “the result of too many people having guns,” noting that both suspects have lengthy criminal records — Malone with 11 arrests and Greer with 19 — and are ineligible to own guns as convicted felonies.

Greer is charged with one count of murder, one count of motor vehicle hijacking, 13 counts of aggravated assault, 14 counts of kidnapping, one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and one count of possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of a crime.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, best known for prosecuting former President Trump and rapper Young Thug, on Wednesday asked state officials to appoint a special prosecutor in Grier’s case.

Mugshot Jeremy Malone

Jeremy Malone’s arrest photo. (Fulton County Sheriff’s Office)

Malone is charged with aggravated assault and reckless conduct in the food court shooting. He is being held without bail in the Fulton County Jail, and online court records do not list an attorney who could comment on the charges. Schierbaum said Malone and all three food court victims are expected to survive.

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Greer remained in custody without bail Wednesday, and online records did not list an attorney who could comment on the charges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.