Police: Man who stole Tempe city bus, crashed into wall used fake name

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by Catherine Holland and Jennifer Thomas

Video report by Brandon Lee

Posted on March 11, 2014 at 10:29 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 13 at 12:20 PM

Map: 200 E. Fifth St. (Tempe Transit Center)
13th Street and Mill
15th Street and College

View larger map

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Police arrested a 26-year-old man who allegedly stole a city bus and crashed it into a wall Tuesday morning.

According to Sgt. Mike Pooley of the Tempe Police Department, James Robert Martin, aka Patric Moonie, stole an Orbit bus from the Tempe Transit Center at about 7:30 a.m. The driver apparently had left the empty bus running.

Pooley said the suspect initially was  identified as Patric Moonie, but a family member called police and provided Martin's real name after seeing his picture on TV.

"Martin had been arrested in 2013 and had used the name of 'Patric Moonie' and was in the system under that name, however further investigation by detectives revealed that indeed James Martin had used a false name [and birthdate] ..., and 'Patric Moonie' is not his real name," Pooley said in an email to media outlets Wednesday morning.

Martin had just gotten off another bus at the Transit Center Tuesday morning when he apparently noticed bus number 1547 idling, no driver in sight.

Martin hopped aboard, got behind the wheel and drove away in the bus. A patrol officer located him in the area of Mill Avenue and 13th Street, about a mile from the Transit Center.

Police attempted to stop the bus, which pulled into a cul-de-sac in the 100 block of West Hudson Street. Pooley said Martin drove through the front yard and backyard of a home, knocking down a fence to drive onto the railroad tracks. Martin drove approximately one-fourth mile on the tracks to the area of College and 15th Street where he jumped out of the moving vehicle, which then crashed into the back wall of a house. 

Pooley said Martin jumped into the backyard of a home where the resident was outside with his large dogs. The dogs began to bark at Martin, causing him to remain still until officers were able to take him into custody.

Martin was arrested for multiple charges, including theft of a motor vehicle and criminal trespass. Using a false identity was added after police learned Martin's real name and birthdate.

It's not clear where the bus driver was or why he or she left the vehicle running unattended.

Orbit is a free service that uses small buses to connect residential areas with local destinations and major bus routes. There are five Orbit routes in Tempe with buses running every 15 minutes Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-10 p.m., every 15 minutes Saturday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m., and every 30 minutes Sunday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

Orbit buses have 17 seats, two wheelchair positions and standing room for an additional six passengers.

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