EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 27, 2013

Suspicion, then violence, on Salem State shuttle bus

Suspect was giving driver 'weird looks,' rode for several loops

BY JULIE MANGANIS
Staff writer

---- — SALEM, Mass. — As soon as she saw the young man get on the shuttle bus at South Campus, she thought he appeared “suspicious,” one of the passengers told police.

The man, wearing a white hooded sweatshirt, didn’t have a backpack and was giving the driver “weird looks,” the student, a 20-year-old from Lynn, told investigators.

The bus driver, too, had noticed Timothy Wells. The 22-year-old Brockton man, a driver for Cavalier Coach, told police that Wells sat down at the back of the bus and stayed on for four or five loops through the campus.

Then, as the bus pulled into Central Campus, Wells suddenly ran from the back of the bus toward a 23-year-old Salem woman who had boarded near the Harrington Building, witnesses told police.

Police say that man was Wells, 25, of Woburn, who is now facing two counts each of armed assault with intent to murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

Details of what happened aboard the bus emerged from court papers filed by the Salem State University Police in their application for a warrant and criminal charges against Wells, who was arrested late Wednesday in upstate New York.

The woman said Wells, whom she did not know or recognize, started hitting her in the chest with some sort of metal object, then used the same object to hit her right hand.

She began screaming.

The driver later told police that he heard the commotion behind him and turned to see the man “struggling” with one of the female passengers. When the driver went over to help the woman, Wells turned on him, stabbing at him four or five times before making contact with the center of his chest. Then Wells fled.

The driver used the campus police radio channel to report a stabbing on his bus. Officers arrived to find the driver, still on the bus, bleeding from his chest.

He immediately gave police a description of the suspect and the direction in which he had fled, toward Canal Street, and pointed out the second victim sitting behind him. She was bleeding from a 3-inch cut on her hand and was shaking.

She later refused to be taken to a hospital. The bus driver was taken to Salem Hospital for his chest wound.

The driver could not identify what kind of weapon was used.

Police used the information they had to launch a search of the area for a white male with longer reddish hair, a white shirt and a red hat. Campus police officers began searching parking lots of businesses near the intersection of Canal Street and Loring Avenue. Two of the officers, Sgt. Joseph Dunn and Detective James Gargano, turned onto Jefferson Avenue and saw a flash of white in the bushes near Dube’s Seafood Restaurant.

As they approached the restaurant parking lot, they saw a man fitting the suspect’s description climbing into an old brown Toyota Camry.

As the driver, later identified as Wells, began pulling out, he nearly struck the police cruiser. The officers turned on their lights and siren and followed briefly, trying to get the driver to stop, but broke off the chase when the Camry sped up and began weaving through traffic, nearly hitting an ambulance on Jefferson Avenue.

The license plate on the Camry revealed that it was registered to Wells’ mother, Denise. Police then confirmed through school officials that Wells was a student at the school. His campus ID looked like the man police had been chasing.

Officers went to check on Wells’ former roommates at the dormitory where he had lived.

As the investigators, Dunn and Gargano, were returning from interviewing the bus driver at the hospital, they learned that witnesses were reporting seeing the suspect driving toward Loring Avenue and Bowditch Hall, the dormitory there.

That’s what triggered the lockdown, the report reveals.

Efforts to reach the witnesses yesterday were not successful.

The driver, through his employer, declined to be interviewed. A public relations firm representing the bus company released a statement from Cavalier CEO Joan Libby praising the driver for his clear thinking, courage and “quick action to protect the student from further harm and immediately notify the police.”

The statement went on to say that the driver is at home recovering.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.