As the dust metaphorically settled after a shooting in downtown Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon, people at the scene noticed several police officers rushing away to respond to another emergency.

About half a mile away, gunshots had been reported on a Gwinnett County transit bus. A man had allegedly shot someone and hijacked the bus, directing the driver at gunpoint to flee from police and effectively holding him and the other 16 passengers hostage.

The bus led a chaotic pursuit up I-85 into Gwinnett. Along the way, it was swarmed by law enforcement vehicles from several different jurisdictions, including Atlanta police, Georgia State Patrol, Gwinnett police and DeKalb police.

Master Patrol Officer Dashawn Thomas and his teammates on the DeKalb SWAT unit knew none of this when they were called into action. According to Thomas, who spoke to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the incident, they only knew a bus had been hijacked and that an an unknown number of hostages was on board.

Thomas drove the SWAT unit’s BearCat armored vehicle that ultimately stopped the runaway bus. Pictures and video from the scene show Thomas’ Bearcat stopped grille to grille with the rogue bus, which appeared to take the brunt of the collision damage.

According to Thomas, the people getting news updates at home likely knew more about the situation than he or his colleagues did as they navigated heavy traffic to intercept the bus.

“All we knew was the bus had been hijacked in Atlanta, its direction of travel and that there were hostages onboard,” Thomas said.

But he and his team members felt ready for just about any scenario.

“We train a lot on vehicle takedowns, and specifically on buses,” Thomas said. “So I knew that the weight of the BearCat would be able to intercept the bus and bring it to a stop.”

Despite the training, Thomas said he and his colleagues have never faced a bus takedown in the field before, though they’ve often been called to stop plenty of other vehicles.

Thomas said his role was to intercept the bus and find the perfect opportunity to bring it to a stop. His vehicle is the Lenco BearCat, a widely used 10-ton armored transport vehicle wrapped with ½-inch to 1½-inch thick steel bodywork.

By the time Thomas’ SWAT unit got involved, police had been chasing the bus for more than half an hour across three different counties. Dozens of law enforcement vehicles swarmed around the moving bus, which was moving more slowly after exiting the highway and losing some tires to a spike strip.

Thomas had to navigate lots of other vehicles — and police officers.

“Trying to find the moment of opportunity was a little difficult with that many units in the way,” Thomas said. “However, having that many officers on hand is helpful when you’re talking about hostages and people everywhere.”

Thomas was eventually able to maneuver the BearCat in front of the bus, facing the larger vehicle nose to nose, and bring it to a stop.

Once the bus was stopped, the other members of Thomas’ SWAT unit went to work, piling out of the BearCat and clearing passengers off the hijacked vehicle. The suspect, 39-year-old Joseph Grier, was taken into custody by other officers at the scene, so the SWAT officers assisted the shooting victim.

One of Thomas’ team members put tourniquets on 58-year-old Ernest Byrd Jr., who had been shot in the leg nearly an hour earlier. The SWAT unit turned him over to medical personnel at the scene and he was taken to the hospital, where he later died.

Grier, the suspect, witnessed the earlier shooting in downtown Atlanta and even spoke to an AJC reporter at the scene. In the interview, his behavior appeared to verge on manic.

Listen to an interview with bus hijacking suspect Joseph Grier as he spoke to the AJC following the Peachtree Center shooting, where he was a witness.

Thomas pointed out that all DeKalb officer, including his SWAT unit, receive training for situations involving subjects suffering crises of mental health. He and his colleagues felt prepared for an encounter with the suspect, he said, though it was other officers that ultimately made contact with Grier.

Thomas said it was a relief to see the bus driver and other passengers emerge from the bus uninjured, though he did not personally speak to any of them.

“We just answer the call, and we’re just glad it worked out for those people,” he said.

After Tuesday’s wild afternoon, Thomas’ SWAT unit didn’t get a chance to kick back. They immediately returned to training and drills, he said. None of the team members were available for interviews Thursday because they were in an all-day training, DeKalb police spokeswoman Officer Elise Wells said.

Thomas said his schedule has been so full, he hasn’t heard the constant references to “Speed,” the 1994 Keanu Reeves action movie that takes place on a runaway bus wired with explosives.

“Honestly, we just went back to work,” Thomas said with a laugh.