NEW ORLEANS – An Algiers man hailed by some as a hero for commandeering a school bus the day after Hurricane Katrina to take 60 stranded residents to safety in Houston has been arrested on drug charges where his bus journey began: the Fischer public housing complex.
Jabar Gibson, 20, who garnered a movie deal and national attention as the renegade bus driver, was booked Friday with possession with intent to distribute heroin after police stopped his rental car for allegedly driving erratically, New Orleans police said.
Gibson and another man, Gary Burnett, were traveling near the public housing complex about 12:30 p.m. when they veered slightly and nearly struck the police cruiser of officers Michael Pierce and Cory McKain, Pierce said.
The officers pursued the men's car. the suspects stopped it and ran toward the apartment complex, tossing what police said were drugs on the ground. They were quickly caught.
Gibson became a national figure when he stole an Orleans Parish School bus to rescue himself and his neighbors the day after Katrina struck. He claimed he had never operated a bus, but he and his passengers arrived safely at the Astrodome in Houston ahead of any other evacuee bus.
Two weeks before the storm, on Aug. 18, authorities said Gibson led police on a highspeed chase that ended with a wreck and left four officers injured. He was charged with possession of stolen property and resisting arrest by flight.
Gibson's police record also includes charges of aggravated assault, crack possession with intent to distribute and possession of a stolen car.
On Friday, he faced charges of reckless driving and driving without a seat belt or a driver's license in addition to the drug charge.
Asked to describe what happened, Gibson shook his head and said nothing.
Despite his criminal past, some have hailed Gibson's actions immediately after Katrina as heroic.
After the hurricane hit, when the levees were breached and New Orleans began to fill with water, Algiers residents began to panic.
Gibson said he and three friends siphoned a plastic jug full of fuel and took a truck to an Algiers school bus barn. He drove one bus to Fischer and collected about 60 people, including a week-old infant and a pregnant mother, and shepherded them to Texas.
Last month, Gibson told a reporter, "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, a lot of times. But that's all behind me now. I feel like the Lord, all the problems I was going through, he just turned it around for me."
Gibson's passenger in the car, Burnett, 20, of Algiers, was booked Friday with possession with intent to distribute heroin and crack cocaine.