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‘Believed it was a training exercise:’ Greyhound driver involved in pursuit across state line faces felony charge

RACINE COUNTY -- The driver of a Greyhound bus involved in a pursuit across the state line in January, during which a man prosecutors say was in the country illegally threatened to kill passengers is now facing a felony charge of his own.

Daniel Mengestu, 46, of St. Paul, Minnesota faces one count of attempting to flee or elude a traffic officer for the incident that happened on Jan. 12.

A criminal complaint says deputies with the Racine County Sheriff's Office attempted to stop the Greyhound bus as it traveled southbound on I-94 into Racine County -- following the bus, which failed to stop through Kenosha County and into Illinois, where it finally stopped -- 2.25 miles into Illinois. The complaint says deputies' squads had their lights and sirens activated, and the deputies were joined by Wisconsin State Patrol troopers and deputies with the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department.

When the bus finally stopped, the complaint says Mengestu said "he saw the police cars following him, but chose not to stop because he believed it was a training exercise."

The complaint notes that the squads following the bus "were positioned to be visible to the bus driver." The complaint says a sergeant noted she was able to shine her spotlight into the driver's side mirror of the bus, and the driver looked at her, and then to his right.

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling

Speeds during the pursuit ranged from 49 miles-per-hour to 70 miles-per-hour, and involved the bus moving into the far right lane. Three lanes of southbound traffic had to be blocked as a result.

"Every deputy and every police officer involved in that pursuit was thinking the worse case scenario," said Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling.

When it entered Kenosha County, eight squads were following the bus with lights and sirens activated, holding traffic back. A "spike strip" had to be deployed in an effort to get it to stop.

"We're thinking we're going to have a standoff situation. We had an excess of 12 squad cars assigned to this. We activated our lights, our sirens. 'Why didn't you stop? Was someone threatening you? And the answer is 'no -- no one was threatening me and I thought this was some sort of training exercise.' This guy should not be driving a bus or operating any sort of mechanical equipment on our Wisconsin roadways any time in the future," said Sheriff Schmaling.

 

Greyhound officials said Mengestu is no longer a driver with the company.

Margarito Vargas-Rosas

Margarito Vargas-Rosas, 34, the man accused of threatening passengers on the bus pleaded guilty in March to one count of disorderly conduct. A charge of making terrorist threats was dropped and read into the court record on Monday.

The court then sentenced Vargas-Rosas to serve 52 days in the Racine County Jail -- with credit for time served.

In early April, Vargas-Rosas was federally indicted by a grand jury -- with the indictment alleging Vargas-Rosas, an illegal alien "was found in the U.S. after having been removed to Mexico on or about Oct. 3, 2012, on or about April 3, 2012 and on or about May 18, 2010 -- and not having obtained the express consent of the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to reapply for admission to the United States."

Below is some background information on Vargas-Rosas from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials:

On Jan. 13, 2018, deportation officers ICE placed an immigration detainer with the Lake County, Illinois Jail on Margarito Vargas-Rosas, a citizen of Mexico, following his arrest on criminal charges in connection with the Greyhound incident.

Margarito Vargas-Rosas’ immigration history:

  • On Nov. 23, 2004, Vargas-Rosas was voluntarily returned to Mexico from California.
  • On Aug. 31, 2009, Vargas-Rosas was encountered in Marion County, Oregon, after he was arrested on local charges. He was issued a notice to appear in immigration court and released on an order of recognizance.
  • On May 18, 2010, Vargas-Rosas was ordered removed by an immigration judge in absentia.
  • He was twice deported to Mexico: March 20, 2012, and April 2, 2012.

According to a criminal complaint, this Greyhound incident all began at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, where, prosecutors say, while waiting for the bus, there was an incident with Allied Barton Security. Vargas-Rosas was found to be intoxicated and he was advised to stop drinking. The complaint says he “later made a threat to kill the security officer and his family,” but apologized when he realized who he was talking to.

Eventually, a 911 call came in from aboard the Greyhound bus, but Milwaukee County squads weren’t able to locate it. Squads from Racine County were dispatched to  I-94 around 9:50 p.m. and the bus was located by deputies -- and the pursuit ensued.

Incident on Greyhound bus ends in Wadsworth, IL

 

Investigators spoke with a passenger who said after returning to the bus at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, she observed Vargas-Rosas arguing with another passenger. She said she told them to stop arguing and the passenger did. She said when she asked Vargas-Rosas to calm down, he said “do you want to die?” and “I will kill all you (expletive) on this bus.” He added “my boys gon be at the bus stop in Chicago.” Investigators reviewed a 911 call made by the passenger in which she told the dispatcher “I’ll kill everyone on this bus.”

Incident on Greyhound bus ends in Wadsworth, IL

This witness said the passenger with whom Vargas-Rosas was arguing told her he had a gun and she needed to call the police. She said after she called police Vargas-Rosas continued making threats against the passengers, and when the bus finally stopped, Vargas-Rosas “became more upset and started pacing the aisle still threatening passengers on the bus.”

A deputy who spoke Spanish spoke with Vargas-Rosas, and indicated “Margarito said when he gets out he was gonna shoot people, police officers and military soldiers in Mexico.”

Incident on Greyhound bus ends in Wadsworth, IL

Investigators also spoke with the Greyhound passenger with whom Vargas-Rosas was allegedly arguing. He said it started when they boarded the bus in Milwaukee. He said Vargas-Rosas was “threatening and harassing him” and told him “a bullet was waiting for him.” Vargas-Rosas also used racial slurs, according to this passenger. He said about 10 minutes into the ride, he saw Vargas-Rosas pull something out of his waistband and place it on the seat. The passenger said he was scared and crouched in his seat to call 911. While on the phone with police, he reported Vargas-Rosas walked to the bathroom and said “you dead, (expletive), you dead (expletive).”

A weapon wasn’t located during a search of the bus, the complaint says.