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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — One man is in the hospital and another is facing charges after a shooting on a Port Authority bus traveling through Downtown Pittsburgh on New Year’s Day morning.

Port Authority Police say the bus driver alerted them to the shooting around 11 a.m. near the corner of 9th Street and Liberty Avenue.

Photo Credit: David Colabine/KDKA Photojournalist

The victim has been identified as 29-year-old Joseph Thomas of the Hill District. Port Authority Police say he suffered a graze wound to the neck.

The suspect, 26-year-old Rodney Culberson, of Lincoln-Lemington, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

(Source: Allegheny County)

When police arrived on scene, officers say they found Thomas wrestling on the floor with Culberson. Thomas shouted that he’d been shot, and needed medical assistance. Police found a .45-caliber, semi-automatic handgun under a nearby seat.

Eyewitnesses overheard a woman talking to police outside the bus.

“We heard her say that there was a gun, and she told them that he had taken the clip out,” said Chance Cope, a witness.

About a dozen people were on the 82 Lincoln, including a mother and baby, when the shot was fired. The bus was heading out of downtown.

After the shooting, the baby could be seen in an infant car seat inside a Port Authority Police cruiser, along with the baby’s mom, who was a witness to the shooting.

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: David Colabine/KDKA Photojournalist

Eyewitnesses say they could hear and see a struggle between two men onboard the bus.

“There was like a noise on the bus and two people appeared to be like wrestling each other into a seat,” said witness Alicia Alexander.

At first, the two witnesses, who work at a nearby production studio, didn’t realize someone had been shot.

“We just thought it was a fight,” said Cope. “We didn’t realize there was a gun until the lady with the baby got out and was standing right outside the door, and we could hear some of the call to police.”

When questioned, officials say Culberson admitted to police that he shot Thomas. He said he had been downtown, waiting for the outbound 82 Lincoln bus when Thomas approached him and asked him what he was looking at.

KDKA’s Pam Surano Reports:


Culberson said he told Thomas to relax because he didn’t know what he was capable of, and vice versa, according to the criminal complaint.

The two boarded the bus, and, according to Culberson, Thomas followed him and became aggressive.

Culberson told police he felt threatened and shot Thomas in the neck. He said the two men continued to fight, and Thomas grabbed the weapon.

Police said they looked at video from a bus camera, which confirmed that the two men were arguing and switching seats before Culberson pulled out the gun.

Thomas was taken to UPMC Mercy Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Police say doctors found 10 baggies of marijuana on him.

Both he and Culberson have been charged with marijuana possession.

Ralph Iannotti