Gwinnett County bus hijacking: Gwinnett County DA assigned case by council

Joseph Grier (Fulton County Sheriff's Office)

Gwinnett County District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gaston has been assigned to the case involving the man accused of hijacking a Gwinnett County transit bus and shooting and killing a passenger on June 11.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis notified the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia on Wednesday that her officer could not prosecute the case because a victim/witness in the case is a current employee of her office. 

Bus hijacked after downtown shooting

Joseph Grier, 39, is facing multiple charges, including one count of murder, 14 counts of kidnapping, one count of first-degree hijacking a motor vehicle, 13 counts of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of or attempt to commit certain felonies, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Grier was reportedly near the scene of a shooting that left 3 people and the suspected shooter wounded at Peachtree Center in downtown Atlanta on the afternoon of June 11 before he hijacked a bus near 45 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd. NE. Seventeen people were on the bus at the time. 

After boarding the bus, Grier became involved in a confrontation with a passenger named 58-year-old Ernest Byrd Jr.. Grief took Byrd's gun and shot him with it. Byrd died as a result.

Grier then allegedly held the bus driver at gunpoint and forced him to drive away from downtown Atlanta. Multiple police officers gave chase and the bus was eventually stopped in the 5100 block of Hugh Howell Road in Stone Mountain. Grier was taken into custody.

Grier's family told FOX 5 Atlanta that Grier recently lost his job and was not taking medication that was prescribed to him for mental health issues.

Suspect has criminal history

According to Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum, Grier has an extensive criminal history. He has been arrested 19 times and some of those crimes that he was arrested for involved the use of a handgun.

According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, Grier was last released from Baldwin State Prison a decade ago after serving time for a 2011 aggravated assault in Fulton County. In addition to the two counts of aggravated assault, Grier also served time for the possession of a knife during the commission of a crime.

GDOC records indicate, he also served time for a 2008 aggravated assault in Cobb County and child molestation in 2005 in DeKalb County.

According to the Fulton County Jail, Grier was arrested in 2017 for violation of probation, in 2019 for criminal trespass, simple assault, and violation of a protective order, and in 2019 for aggravated battery and aggravated assault.

According to the DeKalb County Jail, Grier was arrested in 2004 for disorderly conduct, 2010 for failure to register as a sex offender, 2017 for public indecency and battery-family violence.


Family says Grier has mental illness

The partner of Grier's father revealed that Joseph has struggled with mental illness for the 16 years she has known him. He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and has been receiving medical treatment, according to the woman we spoke to.