A 17-year-old from St. Paul was arrested in connection with Sunday's shooting death, but his family said police have the wrong guy. Metro Transit officials continued to reassure riders that they are safe.
The gunshot that killed a St. Paul teen on a Metro Transit bus early Sunday was the result of an ongoing feud, police said Monday.
Police declined to discuss details of the feud between 16-year-old Earl Freeman and the suspect, who was arrested hours after the shooting. The only thing they would say was that Freeman wasn't a random target.
Jerome Pablo Cross, 17, of St. Paul was arrested on suspicion of homicide. He is expected to be charged this week as an adult in the slaying, despite his family's protests that he wasn't at the St. Paul bus stop where Freeman was shot.
"We feel for the other boy's family," said James Cross, Jerome's father. "But they've got the wrong guy."
Although homicides on U.S. public transportation have been rare recently, Sunday's shooting was the second homicide and third violent attack on a Twin Cities bus since early March.
According to the Federal Transit Administration, eight homicides were reported to have occurred on the nation's buses and commuter trains between 2002 and 2006.
In 2005, the most recent year for which the FBI has complete statistics, only one of the 16,692 homicides reported nationwide occurred on public transit.
Metro Transit Police Chief Dave Indrehus called the bus attacks "really isolated incidents" and took pains Monday to reassure bus and light-rail riders that they were safe.
"Transit systems reflect the communities they serve," he said, "and violent acts sometimes spill over" from those communities.
Asked about the weekend shooting, most Metro Transit riders on Monday said it scared them but they were not planning to change their riding habits. Some have no choice.
Mary Cramsie, a St. Paul homemaker riding the Route 3 bus, said she doesn't own a car and relies on the bus system to get around.
"I wouldn't feel safe riding really late at night," she said. "But you can't live life in fear; otherwise you couldn't go anywhere."
Nastacia Foster, a University of Minnesota sophomore on the Route 16 bus Monday, called the incident "horrible" but said it didn't surprise her.
"I feel like, when I'm on the bus, anything can happen," she said. "What's to stop someone from doing something violent?"
During the past year, Indrehus said, a total of eight minor incidents have been reported on the Route 74 bus line, the one that Freeman was riding as he went home from a friend's house.
"I don't consider that line a major concern for us," Indrehus said.
He outlined steps that Metro Transit has recently taken to increase safety on 800 buses that carried 74 million riders last year. They center mostly on increasing the number of officers on buses while beefing up surveillance cameras.
With 44 full-time officers and 60 part-time officers from other agencies, the Metro Transit police force has quadrupled in the past five years, Indrehus said. At any given time during the day, 15 squad cars are on the street, with officers boarding buses five times each shift.
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