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Bus hijacker receives 20-year sentence in North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. – An El Savadoran citizen was sentenced to nearly 20 years in federal prison Wednesday for hijacking a Greyhound bus in North Carolina, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Warren County Sheriff's Office and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

Jose Darwin Flores, 33, of Arlington, Va., was sentenced to 235 months imprisonment followed by three years supervised release following his guilty plea in January to committing violence against a mass transportation provider.

According to the investigation Flores was one of at least 30 passengers on a Greyhound bus that departed Feb. 3, 2011, from Washington, D.C., destined for Miami, Fla. Also among the passengers were elderly adults and minor children. As the bus entered North Carolina on Interstate 85, Flores, who was intoxicated, approached the bus driver and demanded to get off the bus. When the driver refused due to safety concerns, Flores brandished a black pellet gun resembling a pistol and pointed the gun against the head of the driver. He ordered the driver to stop the bus, and demanded that the driver turn on the interior lights so the passengers could see the gun. Flores threatened the driver and struck the driver at least twice. He pointed the gun at the chest of another passenger and threatened to "make an example" of the passenger. Flores shouted profanities and threatened other passengers, and repeatedly told the passengers that he had nine bullets and, if anyone "tried anything," he would kill nine passengers.

The driver complied with Flores' orders by exiting off of the Interstate and bringing the bus to a stop. All but four passengers escaped by jumping from the windows and emergency exit of the bus. Flores then ordered the driver to continue south on I-85. With law enforcement in pursuit, Flores again directed the driver to stop the bus along the shoulder of I-85, where he allowed two elderly passengers to exit the bus through the front door. Flores ordered the driver to continue. In the vicinity of Henderson, N.C., Flores allowed the driver to exit to a gas station to use the restroom. As the driver exited the bus, law enforcement officers directed Flores to exit with his hands raised. Flores ignored their directives. Flores then attempted to drive the bus away, but was unable to disengage the emergency brake. He then exited the bus and stood by the door holding the gun by his side. When Flores refused the commands of officers to drop the gun, an officer approached around the front of the bus and subdued Flores with the use of a taser.

Flores was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.