A former U.S. Navy seaman who has been in an upstate prison since killing two people during a bus hijacking on Independence Day 1977 was deported Wednesday to his native Panama.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents escorted Luis Robinson, 61, aboard a commercial flight out of a western New York airport, ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein told The Associated Press.
Our mission is to remove the most violent people from our communities and this is one that will not see the light of day in the United States.
- Michael Phillips, ICE field office director for enforcement and removal operations in Buffalo
Once in Panama, Robinson was to be turned over to authorities to be interviewed, Feinstein said. It's likely he would be released in the absence of criminal charges there.
Robinson, formerly of Somerset, N.J., was transferred to the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia on Monday following his conditional parole from the Auburn Correctional Facility. He served 34 years of a 15-years-to-life sentence for fatally shooting the driver and a passenger aboard a bus that was hijacked in the Bronx and was diverted to John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens with 25 passengers aboard.
ICE's Michael Phillips, field office director for enforcement and removal operations in Buffalo, said that when Robinson "was done serving his criminal sentence, we were waiting at the door of the prison to take him into custody and ensure his removal from the United States."
In 1977, Robinson was a 26-year-old Navy apprentice who had been in the United States as a permanent resident since 1964. After hijacking the bus, he demanded a $6 million ransom and an airplane to take him to Cuba while railing against his treatment in the United States, passengers said. He surrendered after nine hours when two armored police cars rammed and disabled the bus.
Robinson had boarded the Vermont Transit Lines bus in Manhattan, heading back to his ship, the USS Detroit, in Bath, Maine, at the end of a three-day authorized leave. As the bus traveled through the Bronx, Robinson fired a bullet through the neck of 50-year-old passenger John McGavern, wounding him, and ordered the driver to go to Kennedy airport. The bus smashed through a padlocked security gate and drove onto the tarmac, interrupting domestic and overseas holiday air traffic for about 15,000 travelers.
During a standoff with police, Robinson shot and killed 60-year-old passenger Nettie Blassberg, of Greenfield, Mass., and threw her body onto the tarmac. He then shot and killed bus driver Norman Bozick, who had lunged at him after Blassberg was shot.
Another passenger, 36-year-old Jimmy Lo, of Hong Kong, misunderstood the hijacker's command to "shut up!" and abruptly stood up, and he was shot. He survived his wounds.
Robinson initially pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of murder and kidnapping, but a year later he pleaded guilty to two counts of felony murder. The state dropped 36 lesser counts against him.
He was discharged from the Navy in absentia on July 7, 1980. On April 1, 1999, a U.S. immigration judge revoked his lawful permanent resident status and ordered him removed from the United States upon completion of his criminal sentence.
Phillips said Robinson would not be back.
"Our mission is to remove the most violent people from our communities," Phillips said, "and this is one that will not see the light of day in the United States."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.