Army trainee hijacks school bus full of children, military officials release new information

RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. — A trainee at Fort Jackson Army base is accused of hijacking a school bus full of children Thursday.

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Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said the trainee, who has not been identified, was armed with a rifle when he took the bus, WIS reported.

Update 5:01 p.m. EDT May 6: Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott identified the trainee involved in the hijacking as Jovan Collazo, 23, WOLO reported. Authorities said Collazo was charged with 19 counts of kidnapping, armed robbery, carjacking, pointing and presenting a firearm, use of a weapon during a violent crime and unlawful carry of a weapon on school property, the television station reported.

“He told the bus driver he didn’t want to hurt anybody; he wanted him to drive him to the next town,” Lott said at a news conference.

Video that the sheriff played during the news conference showed Collazo boarding the bus, shouting at the driver to close the door and drive. He was on board with the students and driver for six minutes, Lott said.

Update 1:16 p.m. EDT May 6: Fort Jackson officials said the man who hijacked an elementary school bus is a 23-year-old trainee from New Jersey who had been at the post for three weeks.

Brig. Gen. Milford Beagle Jr. said during an afternoon news conference that the man, wearing his physical training uniform, jumped the fence at Fort Jackson in an area that is not fully monitored, but that has barbed wire at the top. He was carrying an M-4 rifle that was assigned to him.

The man had no ammunition with him, however, as trainees are not given access to ammunition until the fourth week of training and only under controlled situations at a range.

Beagle said he believes the man wanted to return to his family and didn’t intend to hurt anyone, and said that the man was very quiet, but there is no indication that he would have harmed others.

In addition to potential criminal charges, the trainee potentially faces charges through the military including absent without leave (AWOL) and theft of a weapon, since he took the rifle assigned to him off the post.

Original report: Police said the man went to a bus stop, got on the vehicle and told the driver he didn’t want to hurt anyone but that he wanted to go to the next town over, WLTX reported.

There were 18 students on board on their way to a local elementary school.

“You can just imagine they were scared to death,” Lott told local news teams. “I’ll give the bus driver credit, he kept his cool.”

Kids started asking questions and at one point the man got frustrated and told the kids and the driver to get off the bus, WLTX reported.

They did and he drove away, but only got a few miles down the road because he had trouble driving it, Lott said.

The man left the bus, leaving the rifle behind, and ran around the neighborhood looking for clothes.

Officers finally captured the man.

The Richland School District Two is offering counseling to the children who were on the bus, WLTX reported.

The man, who had been in his third week of Army training, is facing kidnapping charges, WYFF reported.

Fort Jackson officials told WIS that they are aware of the situation and are working with the sheriff.

The base released a statement Thursday morning claiming responsibility for the trainee’s action.

“This was a failure in our accountability procedures that we truly regret and are apologetic to our community. We are thankful for the fast actions of RCSD and the local community to assist in the apprehension of the individual,” WIS reported.