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Prosecutors charge St. Louis man with 17 criminal charges in MetroBus shootings

 Bi-State Development CEO Taulby Roach said at a press conference Thursday that Metro Transit will introduce new measures to keep bus drivers safe.
Shula Neuman
St. Louis Public Radio
Bi-State Development CEO Taulby Roach said at a press conference Thursday that Metro Transit will introduce new measures to keep bus drivers safe.

St. Louis County prosecutors have charged a 30-year-old man with 17 criminal charges, including armed criminal action, after police said he shot a MetroBus driver late last week and fired on another.

Police say Isaiah Houston used an AR-15-style rifle to fire at a bus driver near North Hanley and Airport Road about 7 p.m. Friday, then shot at operator Jonathan Cobb in the 3400 block of Lucas and Hunt Road about 10 minutes later.

A bullet struck 33-year-old Cobb in the head. After the shooting, the bus crossed over the centerline and struck oncoming vehicles before crashing into a utility pole. Cobb, who was critically wounded, remains hospitalized.

Prosecutors also charged Houston with unlawful possession of a weapon and fourth-degree assault of passengers on the buses. The driver in the first shooting was not injured.

Officers on Monday spotted a maroon Chrysler PT Cruiser seen on surveillance footage at the scene of both shootings in front of the home of Houston’s mother, said Sam Alton, chief of staff for St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell.

Houston was outside the home holding an AR-15-style rifle and fled in his car, Alton said at a press conference.

As officers gave chase, Houston backed his vehicle into a patrol car before trying to drive away on the sidewalk, Alton said. After officers took him into custody, they discovered an AR-15 under the seat in the PT Cruiser.

Prosecutors also charged Houston with resisting arrest and for being a felon in possession of a weapon.

“Ballistics matched the rifle recovered from the defendant’s vehicle to the bullet found at the scene of the second shooting,” Alton said.

Authorities say they believe Houston acted alone and are investigating how he gained access to the firearm.

Houston’s arrest came hours after Cobb’s family pleaded with the public to come forward with information about the shooting.

“Please, St. Louis,” Cobb’s girlfriend, Keylla Johnson, said at a Monday press conference. “Let’s find out who [did] it.”

The couple has 1-year-old twin girls.

Some MetroBus drivers were afraid to work following the shootings, said Taulby Roach, CEO of Bi-State Development, which operates MetroBus and MetroLink.

“Certainly we have had some call-offs, especially on Saturday and Sunday,” Roach said. “But one of the reasons for being here is to reassure those drivers. We still need to move St. Louis. We still need to get folks to grocery stores and to hospitals.”

Roach said Metro Transit will hire 10 security specialists and is looking into installing additional polycarbonate barriers to protect drivers.

Follow Niara on Twitter: @niaraalexandra