During a Thursday afternoon press conference, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott identified the armed U.S. Army trainee who had escaped from Fort Jackson, S.C. and then hijacked a bus full of elementary school children that morning. Lott also released a short video clip from the incident.
Lott named 23-year-old Pvt. Jovan Collazo, a New Jersey native, as the suspect in the Thursday morning incident. In the video shown during the press conference, a suspect in black Army PT gear can be seen boarding the bus with a rifle and pointing it at the bus driver.
Leslie Sully, a Fort Jackson spokeswoman said was attempting to return home, Army Times reported.
Earlier on Thursday, Lott said there were 18 children aboard the bus when the armed suspect got on board.
Brig. Gen. Milford Beagle, the commanding general at Fort Jackson, said the suspect was in his third week of training and had been issued an M4 service rifle, but no ammunition. Beagle said rifles are given out first as part of weapons immersion in training, and ammunition is only given out in the fourth week of the immersion process, beginning with controlled sessions at the range.
Lott said the trainee eventually let the bus driver and children off the bus. The suspect reportedly drove the bus a few miles before abandoning it and the rifle. Lott said the suspect then went through neighborhoods trying to get clothes and a ride before he was subsequently arrested. Lott said the children and bus driver were unharmed.
Neither the bus driver or the children were physically harmed during the incident.
Collazo was arrested a short time after abandoning the bus and has been booked at the Richland County jail. He has been charged with 19 counts of kidnapping, a single count of armed robbery with a deadly weapon, carjacking without great bodily harm, pointing a firearm at a person, carrying weapons on school property and possession of a weapon during a violent crime, according to jail records.
Lott commended the actions of the bus driver during the incident, noting he acted calmly to keep the children on the bus safe during the incident.
Beagle said “I do want to express a great deal of sympathy to those parents, to the bus driver, to our community.”
Beagle described the incident as a failure “with regard to me and my roll in terms of our accountability procedures and processes.” He vowed to fix the deficiencies in the base accountability procedures.
Beagle said in the nearly three years that he’s been at Fort Jackson there have been a couple of absent without leave (AWOL) incidents, “but never with a weapon.”