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Driver Fatally Shot, 3 Wounded at School Bus Depot in San Jose

Violence: Police arrest woman after she is restrained by a colleague. No students are involved.

April 24, 2001|ERIC BAILEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A school bus driver in San Jose allegedly shot and killed a colleague before dawn Monday and wounded three others before another worker restrained her.

The shooting, which occurred as drivers prepared to start their routes, left workers shocked and searching for an explanation of an eruption of violence that none of them saw coming.

Police booked Cathline Repunte, 36, on murder and assault charges shortly after the 6 a.m. shooting at Laidlaw Transit Services' bus maintenance yard, which serves the San Jose Unified School District. The yard is not on a school campus and no students were involved.

The shooting shut down the bus maintenance yard. Dozens of buses were kept behind police tape, leaving about 2,000 children marooned at stops on the first day of school after spring break. Buses from neighboring districts filled in during the morning and afternoon runs, school officials said.

Police did not identify the victims. One, 48-year-old man who was a driver and trainer at the facility, died of a gunshot wound to the upper torso.

Two wounded female drivers were found by police huddled in a barricaded office at the bus yard's headquarters, while a third wounded woman hid in another room. They are expected to survive, police said.

Officer Rubens Dalaison, a San Jose police spokesman, said the toll could have been higher if not for Gregory Allan Lee, a driver who talked the assailant into dropping a handgun and then restrained her before she could flee.

"He's pretty much considered a hero," Dalaison said. "He was able to disarm her and detain her long enough to let officers get there and get handcuffs on her."

Police arrested Repunte without incident. They found several unused cartridges in her pockets.

Witnesses said Laidlaw employees streamed from the yard after hearing the pop of more than a dozen rounds of gunfire. Police dispatchers reportedly heard gunfire in the background as they received telephone calls about the shooting.

About 30 employees were at the bus yard at the time of the shooting. They were placed on a yellow school bus and taken to San Jose police headquarters for questioning after the shooting.

Laidlaw employees described Repunte as quiet and hard-working. A native of the Philippines, she had a reputation as being strict with the children who rode her bus. Repunte had been with the company since April 1995. Employees said Repunte kept to herself, had little contact with fellow drivers and usually headed out on her route shortly after arriving at work.

A company spokesman said there had been no public confrontations or other problems to foreshadow the gunfire.

"We're devastated. This caught us totally by surprise," said Ronn English, Laidlaw human resources director. "We didn't have any indication whatsoever that something would happen at this facility or with this employee."

English said Laidlaw, which operates buses worldwide, has never experienced so grave a case of workplace violence at any of its operations.

"This is one of those things you read about," he said. "You don't anticipate it happening where you work."

Grief counselors spent time Monday with drivers who witnessed the slaying. Some were planning to get back behind the wheel today, but others were still too shaken, English said. "We'll take it one day at a time."

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