RACINE COUNTY — The man arrested for allegedly threatening to shoot and kill people on a Greyhound bus Friday night was a previously deported illegal immigrant living in Chicago, Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said Saturday.
During a news conference Saturday afternoon at the Racine County Sheriff’s Office substation, Schmaling said Margarito Vargas-Rosas, 33, was being held in the Lake County (Ill.) Jail in Waukegan on pending charges of making terroristic threats, a Class I felony, and misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
The sequence of events leading to Vargas-Rosas’ arrest began on board a Greyhound bus bound for Chicago from Milwaukee on Interstate 94, Schmaling said. At 9:45 p.m., while the bus was in Milwaukee County, at least two passengers aboard the bus called 911 to report a man was threatening to shoot and kill passengers.
Milwaukee County deputies were unable to stop the bus and turned the call over to Racine County Sheriff’s Office deputies to make the stop, Schmaling said. However, although several squads had their lights and sirens on, the bus did not stop and continued into Kenosha County, still headed toward Chicago.
The bus driver, who was oblivious to the threats Vargas-Rosas had allegedly made, later said he thought the deputies were either pursuing a different vehicle or conducting a training exercise, Schmaling said.
However, because the bus was not stopping, Schmaling said, the Sheriff’s Office suspected it was being hijacked.
Tires were spiked
In Kenosha County, the Sheriff’s Department there and Wisconsin State Patrol joined in trying to pull the Greyhound over, Schmaling said. Their assistance included spiking the bus tires.
After that, with a couple of flat tires, the bus moved onto the shoulder of I-94 just across the Wisconsin-Illinois state line, Schmaling continued. By the time the bus stopped, the spiked tires were disintegrating, he said.
“The suspect was ordered out at gunpoint,” the sheriff said. “He did comply — rather reluctantly — but he was ultimately taken into custody without incident.”
There were 37 people on the bus, including Vargas-Rosas and the driver, Schmaling said.
“I’m happy to report we don’t have any injuries,” he said. “And this is a situation that could have really went a different direction, when you think about what’s happening throughout our country right now: mass killings and shootings. We dodged a bullet; we really did, in my view.”
“During his transport to the jail, it should be noted that he made threats to law enforcement (officers) that transported him, as well as he made threats to my criminal investigators … to kill them.”
Schmaling said Vargas-Rosas, 33, works at a restaurant in Milwaukee and was taking the bus home to Chicago, where he resides illegally.
“I use the ‘illegally’ because we were notified by immigration authorities that Mr. Vargas-Rosas, the 33-year-old, has been in our country illegally and was deported some time ago back to Mexico, and by virtue of his actions (Friday) night, we see he’s back and threatening to kill Americans.”
Schmaling did not know when Vargas-Rosas was deported to Mexico. He said that, historically, when an illegal immigrant is convicted of a crime here the person serves the sentence here and then would be deported.
No gun, yet
Authorities are still not sure if Vargas-Rosas actually possessed a gun on the bus, but Schmaling said he certainly acted as though he might pull one out and use it. The Sheriff’s Office has seized the bus, applied for a search warrant and will be searching it for a weapon that may have been hidden on board, the sheriff said.
“There’s a lot of areas you could hide a weapon on that bus, as you could imagine,” he said.
All the passengers have been interviewed, and it appears Vargas-Rosas had an altercation with at least two other passengers, Schmaling said. He reportedly made threats, referred to having a gun and acted as though he was going to pull one out of his waistband.
Vargas-Rosas was also pacing back and forth in the aisle and was in and out of the bus bathroom, Schmaling said.
The Sheriff’s Office will go through the legal process of extraditing Vargas-Rosas to Racine County, where he will face criminal charges, Schmaling said. He said his office will be working with the district attorney to finalize the charges, and the sheriff did not rule out additional charges for the threats Vargas-Rosas reportedly made against law enforcement personnel.
The Class I felony of making terroristic threats carries a possible sentence of up to 18 months in prison, two years’ extended supervision and/or a fine of up to $10,000.