Jovan Collazo, Fort Jackson Army Recruit, Allegedly Hijacked School Bus Full of Children

South Carolina: A Fort Jackson Army recruit jumped the perimeter fence at the base with his service weapon, and allegedly hijacked a school bus full of elementary school students on Thursday morning. His weapon had no ammo in it. The suspect was identified as Jovan Collazo, 23. After about an hour, he was arrested by local authorities. No one was injured in the incident.

“A trainee jumped our fence line with his issued weapon and made his way into the community,” Beagle said.

Beagle said the recruit, who was wearing physical training gear, boarded the bus full of children and told the driver he didn’t want to hurt anyone; he just wanted a ride to the next town. The recruit had only been in training for three weeks and hadn’t even made it far enough in training to be issued ammunition, Beagle said.

According to CBS, the recruit let off the children and bus driver, then attempted to drive the bus himself for a short distance. Then he fled the bus, leaving his weapon behind, and ran through the neighborhoods asking for clothes and a ride. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott stated that the suspect became “frustrated” when the students all began asking questions about what would happen to them. The Post and Courier stated that the children began calling their parents, who flagged down a Richland County deputy to notify them. They reported that the bus driver remained calm and tried to de-escalate the situation.

“You can just imagine they were scared to death. 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.”

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott

Separation anxiety?

There were 18 children on the bus, plus the driver. Jovan Collazo faces 19 counts of kidnapping, plus one count each of armed robbery with a deadly weapon, carjacking with great bodily harm, pointing and presenting a firearm at a person, carrying weapons on school property and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. He also faces charges from the Army for being away without leave and theft of government property. In a press conference after the incident, Brig Gen Milford Beagle Jr stated that the Army believes Collazo was trying to get back home.

“He was very quiet, a very quiet individual, hailed from New Jersey, one relative that we knew of,” he said. “And so we assessed that he was just trying to make an attempt to go back home.”…

“There is nothing that leads us to believe, through his counselings or through anything in his screening records coming in, that this had anything to do with harming others, harming himself or anything that links to any other type of nefarious activity,” Beagle said. “Three weeks in, we do experience several soldiers that over the course of their initial stages just have that desire, that anxiety, and due to separation from their families, to get home. And we think that was truly his intent, and nothing beyond that.”

Fort Jackson has 52,000 acres, and not all of the fence line is regularly patrolled, according to the General. It took Army personnel about 30 minutes to notice that Collazo was missing, and notified drill sergeants.

General Beagle stated that the incident revealed some security flaws that he intended to fix. He also mentioned that during the course of his 3 years as base commander, sometimes recruits tried to leave out of anxiety from being away from home, and some were facing separation already. The incident with Collazo was the first time anyone managed to get away with a weapon.


Featured photo: surveillance photo in school bus and Jovan Collazo mugshot via Richland County

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