On December 3, 1979, terrorists attacked unarmed sailors en route to a day watch at Naval Security Group Activity (NSGA) Sabana Seca.
CTO1 John Ball, the Communications Supervisor had volunteered to drive the Navy bus. RM3 Emil White, seated behind CTO1 Ball was one of many other sailors on the bus. Both were killed by gunfire when the bus was blocked by a van and a pickup truck driven by terrorists. Many other sailors onboard were injured.
Below are those on the bus:
RM3 Cottie Allen (wounded)
CTO1 John Ball (killed)
CTRSN Allen Bush (wounded)
CTRSN Brad Clark (wounded)
CTT2 Cindy Edwards (wounded)
CTM3 Joe Key (wounded)
CTRSN Clifton Looney
CTM2 Robert Minnick
RM3 Drusilla Penderghest
CTRSA Monique Ritter (wounded)
CTOSN Rich Sauter (wounded)
CTO3 Sandy Seaton (wounded)
CTRC Warren C. Smith (wounded)
CTTSN Ken Toman
RM3 Emil White (killed)
RM3 Debra Whitehurst (wounded)
CTM3 Gil Zuback
The following was taken in part from The San Juan Star – Friday December 3, 1999
By Manny Suarez
The article is titled: Attack on Navy Bus Unsolved After 20 years – FBI Closed the Books on the Case.
“At dawn 20 years ago today, a big yellow bas turned left on leaving the U.S. Naval Base at Sabana Seca and left again onto Route 867, a narrow road lined with discarded refrigerators, stoves and other debris. The road was filled with potholes and led to an off-base communications station peculiar for it huge circular antenna imbedded on the ground.
Behind the wheel of the bus was Emil White, 20 of St. Thomas. Setting directly behind him was Petty Officer Joseph B Key of el Paso Texas.
The bus was carrying the technicians who made up the morning shift at the station.
While try to maneuver around the holes, White blew his horn at a green pick-up truck that drove erratically in from of him. The pick-up stopped, and then started again.
As the bus pulled up alongside a white van parked on the appositive lane, the pick-up blocked the road, causing the bus to stop only two or three feet from the side of the van.
The driver of the pickup jumped out and ran into the van.
Two automatic weapons sticking out of the partially open windows of the van opened fire, filling the Navy bus with the of automatic weapons fire, shattering glass and the scrams of those in the bus.
The shooting was over in the seconds it takes to empty clips from an M-16 and a Soviet designed AK-47 assault rifle, the weapons used by the opposing side in the Vietnam War.
The white van pulled way.
In the bus, White was stumped over the wheel dead.
Key and Chief Petty Officer Warren C. Smith pushed White’s body aside. Smith took the wheel, turned the bus around and drove back to the base as the wounded mound in pain.
In addition to White, Petty Officer John Ball, 29, was killed. Ten others were wounded, two critically.
Quickly assuming responsibility for the act was a little known organization calling itself the Buricua Popular Army, Las Macheteros.
In a communique, the organization said it had taken the action in response for what it said was the “murder” of a Vietnam War veteran, Angel Rodrigues Cristobal, who was arrested May 19, 1997, for violating a court injection against trespassing on Vie… Rodrigues was a militant member of the Socialist League.
Rodrigues had been sentenced to 90 days in prison and was found hanging from the cell in a federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida. The prison authorities said Rodrigues had committed suicide.
The Socialist League and other pro-independence organization insisted to this day that he had been lynched by the guards.”