Army Recruit Charged With Dozens of Crimes After Hijacking School Bus Filled With Children, Police Say

Jovan Collazo allegedly ran from basic training with a weapon and boarded a school bus in South Carolina, ordering the driver to take him to the next town, authorities said.

An Army recruit in South Carolina is facing dozens of charges after authorities said he highjacked a school bus filled with children after fleeing basic training at Fort Jackson.

Jovan Collazo, 23, Collazo, was arrested Thursday after hijacking the school bus with a M4 rifle, authorities said. He has been charged with 19 counts of kidnapping, representing 18 elementary students and the bus driver, according to the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff Leon Lott told reporters at a news conference Thursday that Collazo boarded the bus, pointed the weapon at the driver and told him to drive to the next town. “He told the bus driver he didn’t want to hurt anybody," Lott said.

The department released surveillance video from inside the bus showing a man pointing a gun at the bus driver and children crowding at the front of the vehicle. 

Military officials said the rifle was not loaded. Army Brig. Gen. Milford Beagle said during the press conference the recruit jumped a fence at Fort Jackson and was trying to go home. Beagle said the weapon "did not have ammunition but those on the bus would not know that."

Collazo was in his third week of basic training, authorities said. 

It was "a very scary situation this morning,” Lott said. 

Children on the bus began texting and calling their parents, saying their bus had been hijacked, authorities said. Students also came to the front of the vehicle and began peppering the suspect with questions, Lott said.

The incident apparently became more than the hijacker could handle. "The kids started asking lots of questions to the suspect," Lott said. "The suspect got a little frustrated."

Ke-aundre James, a 10-year-old student on the bus, told CBS affiliate WLTX-TV that he called his parents when the man boarded his bus.

"I heard yelling and cussing at the front of the bus, and it was this man, and he had a gun," Ke-aundre said. "I called my mom and told her everybody on that bus was being held hostage," he said. "He was saying the F-word. He was saying, 'close the doors. Go, go. Take me to the next town.'"

The student said other children began moving toward the front. "They were asking him 'Are you going to hurt the bus driver? Are you in the military? Are you a solider?'" Ke-aundre said he stayed in the back, talking to his parents, until everyone was ordered off the bus.

After six minutes, Collazo told driver and the kids to get out, Lott said. He continued driving for a few miles and then abandoned the bus, with the rifle inside, the sheriff said.

Collazo then “went through neighborhoods” nearby, Lott said, and was spotted by deputies, who arrested him without incident. 

No one was hurt during the incident, Lott said.

"You can just imagine they were scared to death," Lott said. "I'll give the bus driver credit, he kept his cool. His main concern was the safety of the kids and he did his job."

A bail hearing for Collazo was scheduled for Friday. His first court appearance is scheduled for May 28, WIST-TV reported.

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