A rifle-toting U.S. Army trainee from New Jersey allegedly hijacked a school bus full of kids in South Carolina, holding the driver at gunpoint, in what officials believe was a desperate attempt to get home.
A camera on board the bus in Columbia captured the man, identified as Jovan Collazo, get on and point his weapon at the driver Thursday morning. The 23-year-old trainee at nearby Fort Jackson boarded the bus, which was carrying 18 students from Forest Lake Elementary, and ordered the man behind the wheel to drive.
"I've been a sheriff for 25 years, a cop for 46 years, and this is the first time I've ever had a call like I had this morning," said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.
The commanding general of Fort Jackson said that Collazo had only been in training for three weeks, and that it appeared he was trying to get home to New Jersey. His only listed address is in Perth Amboy, with one known relative.
While the commanding officer said there were no indications that the trainee had any intention of harming himself or others, those who were trapped inside the bus with him as he pointed a rifle did not know that.
"They were upset, they were scared to death," Lott said of the students and driver. "For six minutes they were traumatized, six complete minutes the bad guy was on the bus with a gun ... the kids started asking lots of questions if he was going to hurt them or the bus driver."
Police said that Collazo eventually let the students and the driver off the bus, unharmed. Older students had their arms around the younger kids after they were let go.
From there, Collazo allegedly left the rifle on the bus as he went through neighborhoods trying to get rides and clothes, police said. He was soon spotted by officers and was arrested without a struggle.
U.S. Army officials said the rifle was not loaded, as trainees at that level are not allowed ammo. Collazo faces a slew of charges including kidnapping and carjacking.