Getting an assault rifle on bus easy for suspect


Published: Friday, January 13, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 12, 2006 at 11:39 p.m.
Armed with an AK-47 rifle, investigators say a Largo man accused of gunning down two college students last week made his way to and from Ocala on a Greyhound bus.
No one stopped Leo Lancing Boatman, 19, as he traveled in and out of Marion County with the gun on the North American bus service.
Less than a week after the deaths of John Parker and Amber Peck, officers arrested Boatman in Pinellas County Jan. 10 for two counts of first-degree murder.
Greyhound employees are trained to be on the lookout for suspicious items, bags left unattended and for "unruly or aggressive behavior" among passengers, said company spokeswoman Anna Folmnsbee.
"Our employees have a heightened awareness," she said.
Firearms, of all types, are prohibited on the buses, along with acids and ammunition and other items, according to the company's baggage policy.
But the company does not physically screen all customers and luggage, such as at airports and courthouses that make people pass through a screening area and a metal detector. Boatman would have been able to ride the buses without being stopped by anyone, unless something about his behavior or luggage tipped off an employee that he was armed, Folmnsbee said.
The company, she said, is concerned about passenger safety, but it would not be feasible for employees to screen every person or piece of luggage without hurting service. Annually, the company handles more than 20 million bags.
Folmnsbee said Greyhound does operate a passenger screening program where an entire bus load of people is randomly selected for a search. The program went into effect after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City in 2001 and is funded by a grant issued by the Transportation Security Administration.
The program, however, only can take place at the company's 80 owned stations nationwide. In the United States, there also are about 950 stations managed by another business or person contracted to Greyhound. Both stops in Ocala and Clearwater, where officers say Boatman got on a Greyhound bus, are not owned by the company.
Folmnsbee said the company is aware of the investigation surrounding Parker's and Peck's deaths and Boatman and have been cooperating with authorities.
She said she did not know if the case had resulted in any internal investigation at the company to examine issues surrounding Boatman carrying a gun onto the buses.
Folmnsbee said comparing security services at airports to Greyhound's stations, which operate more like a mass transit system, is "just completely comparing apples to oranges."
Airport security is funded and operated by the Transportation Security Administration, she said. "Airlines have a closed system," she said, referring to customer access to terminals. And there are fewer airports than Greyhound stations in the United States, she said.
Relatives found the bodies of Parker and Peck near their camp site in the Ocala National Forest on Jan. 7. The two had been shot multiple times. Officers allege Boatman left his home and traveled to Marion County where, he later told a friend, he went out to the woods and killed "two preppy kids" he had come across.
Boatman is being held without bond at the Marion County jail and could face the death penalty for the killings.
Lise Fisher can be reached at (352) 374-5092 or fisherl@gvillesun.com.

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