Opening Statements Begin In Tampa Murder Trial Over HART Bus Driver's Death

Justin McGriff is charged with first-degree murder over the death of bus operator Thomas Dunn.

TAMPA, Fla. — Opening statements began Wednesday in the murder trial of Justin McGriff. 

McGriff is accused of murdering Thomas Dunn on May 18, 2019. Dunn was a HART bus operator driving that day. 

McGriff’s mental illness may be key once again in whether he will be found guilty of murder.

McGriff was found incompetent to stand trial at first. Prosecutors didn’t seek the death penalty as a result of his mental illness, but he could now face a life sentence if convicted.

In court, the state played surveillance video from the bus on May 18, 2019 multiple times. Witnesses said there was no provocation before the attack, and surveillance video didn’t capture it. 

The video played by prosecutors showed McGriff saying “God Bless You” twice to Dunn. Moments later, the video captured Dunn being stabbed. 

The state then called to the stand several witnesses, including passengers on the bus and several members of law enforcement.

Officer Travis Richards was among them. He testified through body camera video that McGriff ran away before several law enforcement partners aided Richards in arresting McGriff near the road. 

Dunn would’ve turned 50 this year.

After his death, 10 Investigates found verbal and physical attacks against bus drivers in Hillsborough County spiked the year he died. Several drivers had already raised concerns after being attacked.

Among them was Thomas Dunn, himself, before his death.

HART later upgraded its surveillance camera systems and armed security guards at transit stations. Its drivers also went through de-escalation training with Hillsborough County deputies. 

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