Man accused of shooting, killing Charlotte city bus driver pleads guilty

CHARLOTTE — A man accused of shooting and killing a city bus driver in 2022 pleaded guilty on Thursday.

Darian Dru Thavychith was charged with the murder of Charlotte Area Transit System bus driver Ethan Rivera. Police said the 41-year-old was on the job Feb. 11, 2022 when Thavychith shot and killed him in Uptown Charlotte near West Trade Street.

Police said that Thavychith and Rivera got into an argument that night and the 22-year-old fired a shot into Rivera’s bus. Police called it an act of road rage.

Thavychith was later found and arrested in Kansas. In court Thursday, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and shooting into an occupied vehicle.

Thavychith faces a maximum sentence of 57 years in prison for those felonies. As part of the plea deal, he was sentenced to 157 to 201 months (about 13 to 17 years) for second-degree murder and 64 to 89 months (about five to seven and a half years) for other charge.

The sentences will be served concurrently.

Thavychith will get credit for time served already that will go towards that sentence.

‘I hope that you rot’

Ethan Rivera’s mother, Sylvia Rivera, addressed the court Thursday. She said she was appalled at Thavychith’s sentence.

“I just thought that maybe he would be getting more time because of what he did, because he didn’t care,” she said.

She brought a framed photo of her son to show the judge and, at one point, she showed it to Thavychith. She pointed to the photo while telling him he took her son away.

“I hope that you rot,” she said, looking at Thavychith.

She was stoic as she talked to her son’s killer. Her relatives were crying in the pews as they listened.

“No matter what, he will always be in my heart,” she said, adding, “The hurt that it brings is devastating.”

“He took my firstborn,” she told the judge.

Rivera said Thavychith’s sentence wasn’t enough. She told the judge Thavychith will be able to get out and have a family one day, but her son will never have that.

“When he comes out, he’s going to be able to have a family, have children and have a life. Whereas my son won’t be able to do that,” Rivera said. “He’s left two small children without a father, he’s left me without a child.”

Thavychith told Rivera’s family he takes full responsibility.

“I apologize for everything I put you guys through. I wish this situation never happened,” he said to Rivera’s family. “I have you guys in my prayers as well. I want to say I’m sorry.”

To that, Rivera said, “there’s no forgiving.” She said now, she’s focused on remembering her late son.

“He’s always going to be in our thoughts,” she said.

The prosecutor on the case told the judge the plea deal was the best way forward, because if the case had gone to trial, much of the evidence would have been circumstantial and they didn’t want to risk Thavychith getting away with murder.

Prosecutor’s narrative

On Thursday, prosecutors read their narrative of what happened on Feb. 11, 2022. They said that night, Rivera merged into Thavychith’s lane to in order to turn from North Graham Street onto Trade Street.

As the two were waiting for the traffic light to change, Rivera opened the door of the bus and the two started arguing. Surveillance video caught Thavychith saying Rivera cut him off.

Rivera pulled up and closed the door, and that’s when Thavychith shot into the bus, hitting Rivera in the head. He then drove off.

Prosecutors said while the CATS surveillance audio is clear, the video does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Thavychith was the one driving the car near Rivera. In addition, only one of the three passengers on the bus could provide a description of the suspect.

It’s also unclear if there was a passenger in the car with Thavychith.

An arrest warrant for Thavychith was drawn up when officers found a car matching the description of the suspect’s car. They used DNA evidence and a matching bullet casing found in the car to tie him to it.

Officers found his phone on Feb. 22, 2022 along the side of Interstate 85 in Bessemer City. Cellphone records placed it at various areas near the crime scene the night of the shooting.

Thavychith was arrested in Shawnee, Kansas after calling police from a gas station pay phone to ask questions about a North Carolina case.

Prosecutes concluded that the evidence was circumstantial, and those concerns could be amplified if it went before a jury. The plea Thursday ensures Thavychith is held accountable, prosecutors said, and also keeps the community safe from his actions.

(WATCH BELOW: Suspect denied bond in shooting death of CATS bus driver in Uptown Charlotte)

Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.

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