A morning commute on the Metro’s Prospect Avenue bus could have turned tragic Monday when a woman argued with a fellow passenger, then doused riders with gasoline and threatened to light a match.
“The girl got mad because someone sat beside her,” said Randy Harris, 50, one of the victims of the 5:30 a.m. incident near Truman Road. “The bus was crowded, and she asked him to move.”
When the man refused, they argued, and the woman pulled a plastic water bottle filled with gasoline from her bag, witnesses said.
At first, other passengers thought the bottle contained apple juice, because of its color. But the stench of gasoline quickly filled the air after she splashed it on the man. Gasoline also hit five nearby passengers.
“Right after the gasoline, she pulled out matches and tried to flick it,” Harris said. “That’s when the melee broke out.”
The bus driver, who already had called dispatchers to alert them that she needed assistance because of the arguing, quickly pulled the bus over and opened the doors when she heard people shout about the gasoline, said Cindy Baker, a spokeswoman for the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.
Passengers rushed to get off the bus, knocking the matches from the woman’s hands, Harris said.
The woman then pulled out a steak knife and “was swinging it around,” Harris said.
Another passenger, Jeremy Horn, 33, said he usually doesn’t ride the bus that early but quickly noticed it was carrying a full load when he boarded at 5:17 a.m. There were no seats available, so he stood by the back door.
Right away, he heard an expletive-filled argument involving a loud woman, he said.
“It was MF this and MF that,” he said. “I’m thinking, ‘It’s pretty early in the morning for all this.’”
Horn then heard a scuffle. He turned and saw a woman holding a water bottle.
As gasoline splashed on his clothes, Horn headed to the front of the bus. Other passengers told him the woman had tried to light a match.
When the driver stopped, everyone “piled off the bus, including the driver,” Horn said.
The man and woman remained on the bus, fighting, he said. Horn said the man was trying to get the matches away from the woman.
The man soon got off the bus, leaving the woman alone, “cursing and prancing up and down the aisle,” until officers arrived, Horn said.
The woman had boarded about 5 a.m. near 63rd Street and Prospect, Baker said.
It was unclear how many passengers were on the bus, but Baker said she thought it was full. The bus, which can easily carry 40 passengers, traverses one of the busiest ATA routes.
Emergency crews cleaned up the passengers.
Police arrested Ebony D. Williams, 32, of Kansas City, and cited her in city court with six counts of assault — one count for each victim. Last year, Platte County prosecutors charged Williams with second-degree drug trafficking and two counts of drug possession. A hearing in that case is set for next week.
Following her arrest Monday, Williams was taken to a hospital after she complained of stomach pains.
The ordeal rattled Horn, who said he was worried about boarding a bus again.
“I’m very shaken,” he said. “There was premeditation there. Why does she have a bottle of gasoline with her?”