- Associated Press - Sunday, February 5, 2017

SPARTA, Ga. (AP) - A 63-year-old retiree is accused of lighting a bus driver’s hair on fire, taking control of the bus and leading police on a chase through two Georgia counties at speeds up to 95 mph, authorities said.

Michael Douglas Freeman rode the bus from his home into Eatonton to buy two gallons of milk, and was told not to smoke onboard during the return trip, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills told The Telegraph (https://bit.ly/2lctrOc ). So he snatched the keys from the ignition, the sheriff said.

“After cutting her on the arm with the keys, he pulled out his lighter and briefly ignited her hair,” Sills told the Macon newspaper.

The driver, who swatted out the flames, hopped off the bus with another passenger, and Freeman then sped away, Sills said.

Now alone and in command of the white-and-blue Putnam Transit bus, Freeman initially drove up and down the road, cussing as he passed the left-behind driver and passenger on the roadside, Sills said.



After throwing the bus driver’s purse out the window, he drove off and was eventually spotted by a sheriff’s deputy who gave chase, according to authorities. They said efforts to stop the fleeing bus with tire spikes failed, and the bus crested hills on the wrong side of the highway as it streaked into another county, the newspaper reported.

After traveling just over 30 miles, a Putnam County deputy rammed the bus to a stop near the courthouse square in Sparta, Sills said. There were no injuries, but Freeman “wouldn’t open the door” and then tried to bite emergency medical technicians, Sills said.

Freeman was jailed on charges that include battery, aggravated assault, eluding police and drunken driving.

It wasn’t immediately known Sunday whether he has an attorney.

___

Information from: The Macon Telegraph, https://www.macontelegraph.com

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