A passenger on a GO Transit bus headed to Union Station Thursday night has some serious questions for police after he and the other passengers were left locked in the vehicle with a 53-year-old murder suspect for nearly half an hour before officers arrested the man.
"This could have very easily tuned into a hostage situation or even worse if he'd had a weapon," said Alexander Ramirez. "For me this is a flagrant failure of risk mitigation," he told CBC News Friday afternoon.
Following the incident, Ramirez wrote a letter to police raising serious concerns. "I was a passenger on the GO Bus Thursday evening where the arrest of a man for 2nd degree murder was made," he wrote.
"This incident is the first time in my life where I genuinely felt like I was being held as collateral damage."
Ramirez, who was aboard the Hamilton to Toronto 16 Express GO bus, took to social media during the takedown and recounted the details in an interview with CBC News.
@GOtransit on GO 2350, Hamilton16 to Union. Bus pulled over by armed cops. Driver got out. Been locked in for 20 min. Surrounded by cops..??— @AlexRamirez416
'Nothing was told'
"Everything was going fine and once we got to QEW and 427 the bus was pulled over," he said.
That's when Ramirez says he saw two heavily armed police officers approach the door and the bus driver quietly stood up, looked toward the back of the bus for a few seconds and the promptly left.
"He put on his jacket, got out of the bus, closed the door, lights were on and nothing was told [to us]."
Five or so minutes went by. Then, a man sitting near the back of the bus walked to the front and tried to push the door open.
When he couldn't, he sat down at the front of the bus and lit up a cigarette, upsetting some of the passengers.
"He seemed disgruntled. He said, 'Oh, whatever, it's over,' something along those lines," Ramirez said, adding that the man seemed intoxicated.
"Time was going by, we weren't hearing anything from anyone," said Ramirez. "Some of the passengers were starting to get really anxious."
'We could not have exited if we wanted to'
Outside, Ramirez said he could see all but one lane on the Toronto-bound QEW cordoned off by five to eight police cars. Over the dispatch, passengers could hear that some sort of accident had shut the highway down.
"I'm thinking it's this bus," Ramirez said. "There is no accident."
Another 10 minutes went by. Ramirez said the anxiety was too much for some passengers, who began to phone GO Transit and police.
About five more minutes passed. Then suddenly, eight police officers boarded the bus and apprehended the man, saying he was being arrested for second-degree murder, Ramirez said. The man didn't resist.
After the passengers were let off the bus, Ramirez said some began chatting amongst themselves.
Many were thankful that no one got hurt in the process but wondered what might have happened if things hadn't gone so smoothly.
"Nothing against the police, it's their job," Ramirez said. "But there was definitely a flaw in that strategy that they had in containing him and that was keeping him locked in the bus… We could not have exited if we wanted to."
"My question is, who gave the authorization to have myself and the other passengers locked in the bus for 25 minutes with a murder suspect; who evidently knew it was game over?"
Durham police did not respond to CBC News's request for an interview about the incident.