An Army cadet was arrested and charged with dozens of crimes after allegedly getting on a school bus in South Carolina with a rifle Thursday and holding the driver and elementary school students hostage before letting them off the bus, according to authorities. local.
During a news conference, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said the incident began around 7 a.m. near Fort Jackson, the largest US Army training facility, located in Columbia. The cadet, dressed in sportswear, “ran off the pole and escaped” with a rifle from the facility, Lott said. Then officers began receiving calls about someone who was in the middle of a nearby interstate trying to get a car to stop.
The cadet, whom Lott identified as Jovan Collazo, proceeded to approach a nearby bus stop where the children were waiting to be taken to Forest Lake Elementary School, Lott said, and got on the bus, armed with the rifle.
“He told the bus driver that he didn’t want to hurt anyone; he wanted me to take him to the next town, ”Lott said.
Video that Lott played during a press conference Thursday night showed Collazo getting on the bus, yelling at the driver to close the door and drive. He was on board with the students and the driver for a total of six minutes, the sheriff said.
Some of the 18 children on the bus began using cell phones to call parents and let them know what was happening, Lott said. After some of the children repeatedly asked if Collazo planned to hurt them or the driver, the cadet “got a little frustrated” and ordered the bus to stop, allowing the driver and children to get off, Lott said. He then drove the bus several miles before abandoning it, with the rifle inside.
Collazo then “went through the neighborhoods” nearby, Lott said, looking for clothes, was later discovered by officers and arrested without incident.
A spokeswoman for the Richland Two School District said the bus was carrying elementary school children. As a precautionary measure, security was increased at several schools in the area and no one was allowed in or out of buildings, he said.
“A very scary situation this morning,” Lott said of the incident, which he said lasted about an hour.
This is at least the second high-profile incident in recent weeks involving a Fort Jackson-based soldier. Last month, a Fort Jackson soldier was charged with third-degree assault and suspended after online video showed him stalking and shoving a black man in his neighborhood.
Lott said Collazo was in his third week of basic training at the facility. During a news conference Thursday, Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr. said the cadet was 23 years old and had no ammunition in his weapon, which had been given to him as part of his training.
“He was a very calm person, hailing from New Jersey … and we have assessed that he was just trying to make an attempt to get home,” Beagle said.
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The cadets were on a break after breakfast Thursday when the man left the base. He likely took his gun because leaving it behind would have alerted supervisors that he was absent, Beagle said.
“There is nothing that leads us to believe … that this had something to do with hurting others, hurting yourself or anything that is linked to any other type of nefarious activity,” he added.
Beagle said the incident had exposed “a key flaw in our accountability processes, which I will correct, in the future, because the outcome could have been much worse.”
Collazo faces dozens of charges, including 19 counts of kidnapping, as well as counts of violent car theft, possession of a weapon on school property, armed robbery and possession of weapons during a violent crime. Court records did not include a lawyer and he was being held in jail on Thursday afternoon.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.