Woman in custody after police say she stole MTA bus on Upper East Side

UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- A passenger stole an MTA bus in East Harlem Tuesday morning, police said, driving for a few blocks before being stopped by another bus blocking her path.

It began when the driver of the M101 confronted the woman who refused to put out a cigarette.

It happened near the 96th Street stop around 7:10 a.m.

Moments later, he took the bus out of service and evacuated the passengers. But before he realized what was happening, the bus began to pull away with no one else on board and the driver left helplessly on the curb.

The woman took-off heading north on Third Avenue.

She made it three blocks before she was forced to stop by another bus ahead of her. That's when an alert dispatcher reached in and disabled the bus.

"She wasn't trying to stop the bus and I commend the dispatcher because if it wasn't for him opening that window and sticking his hand in there, the bus probably would have crashed into another bus because it almost hit another bus," said Tyni Jackson, an Eyewitness.

The woman was arrested on the spot. She was identified by sources close to the investigation as 34-year-old Charita Headley. She's a former MTA bus driver, fired in July for excessive absences.

"She was resisting at first, but then they got her into the handcuffs and they just walked her to the police car and put her into the police car. She looked really bad, like she was on something. Her eyes were red. Like, really red," Jackson said.

She was transported to nearby Metropolitan Hospital for evaluation. She told officers that she stole the bus because someone was following her.

The MTA is investigating how she was able to slip behind the wheel and drive the bus away.

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