May 28--A Maryland man who police say attempted to hijack a Megabus Downtown on Monday tried to explain his behavior in court yesterday.
"This is mental-health-related; it's not me," Arsenio A. Rodriguez said in the direction of reporters and TV cameras gathered in Franklin County Municipal Court.
Rodriguez, 26, was in court on a robbery charge after police say he boarded a Megabus with a realistic-looking pellet gun and ordered the 58-year-old driver to go to Indianapolis, where it was scheduled to go on its way to Chicago.
The driver refused, and police say Rodriguez told him to get off because he was taking the bus.
Several of the 29 passengers aboard the bus, which was stopped at N. 4th and E. Spring streets, called 911.
When officers arrived, investigators said, Rodriguez pointed the gun at Officer Matthew D. Liford, 39, who shot Rodriguez in his thumb. A bus passenger, Hussein Ahmed, 21, also was struck by police gunfire, in the right hip.
Both were treated at OhioHealth Grant Medical Center and released by Monday evening. It was the sixth police shooting in Columbus this year. Last year, there were 22. Liford is a 15-year member of the Police Division.
It was unclear how or when Rodriguez came to Ohio, but he left trouble behind in Maryland.
On Friday, he was charged in Montgomery County District Court with malicious destruction of property after he threw a rock through an ex-girlfriend's front window on May 20, Montgomery County Sheriff Darren Popkin said.
She was granted a stay-away order against him the day after the incident.
On May 5, he was hospitalized after going into a Rockville, Md., bank and screaming at the tellers, Popkin said. He wasn't charged in that incident. Rockville is in Montgomery County.
"It was clear to the officers when they got there that he was experiencing some kind of mental-health crisis," the sheriff said.
Another restraining order relating to a domestic-violence issue remains active against Rodriguez. It was granted in Maryland's nearby Prince George's County in December. He also has pending charges of malicious destruction of property, second-degree assault, disorderly conduct and trespassing from a February incident.
Ignoring pleas from his attorney, Aric Birdsell, Rodriguez shouted out during his brief appearance in Franklin County Municipal Court yesterday. He said his mental-health problems began 4 1/2 years ago and he hasn't received "any help from the state."
"The jail has not given me any help with my mental-health problems," he said as deputies hustled him from the courtroom.
Judge Anne Taylor set bail at $250,000.
After he was treated at Grant Medical Center on Monday, Rodriguez told detectives that he is not taking his medication for paranoid schizophrenia.
Court records list Rodriguez's address as Bowie, Md., in Prince George's County. Birdsell told the judge that Rodriguez is homeless.
Reached in Philadelphia, Rodriguez's grandmother, Grace Ward, declined to comment.
After getting a late start because of Monday's incident, riders on the Megabus from Columbus to Chicago were dropped off in Indianapolis around 6 p.m. and were told another bus would come in a few hours. Some passengers said they decided to find their own way on to Chicago instead of waiting.
A Megabus official said riders would be reimbursed for Monday's ticket and given a free ticket for a future trip.
Copyright 2014 - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio