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Fort Jackson apologizes for SC school bus hijacking, trainee arrested

18 children from Forest Lake Elementary were on board, but are safe.
Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 10:04 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Fort Jackson military officials have apologized for the hijacking of a Richland Two school bus loaded with elementary school children on Thursday morning.

23-year-old Jovan Collazo, a soldier in training, has been arrested after he hijacked the school bus with a M4 rifle, police said.

Thankfully, no one was hurt in the incident, which lasted for about an hour.

Pvt. Callazo is a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment.

Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr. said the trainee has been at Fort Jackson for three weeks. His counselors on post said he was “very quiet.”

“There is nothing that leads us to believe, through his counseling and 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 activities,” Beagle said.

Beagle said Collazo left with his rifle before breakfast. He said it’s possible Collazo brought the rifle in order to give himself a head start (which Beagle estimated to be 30 minutes).

“If a weapon was left behind, you’d immediately know a person’s missing. By taking a weapon, you kind of give yourself a little time and space, because the weapon is not missing, someone could be just around the corner or in another location,” he said.

Beagle said Collazo hopped a portion of the fence that was patrolled but not monitored near Highway 77. He said the base will look at improving fence monitoring as part of a review of “accountability” on site.

Beagle said it’s believed Collazo was trying to get home to New Jersey.

The commander added “there are better ways to deal with that.”

NEW VIDEO: This was the scene when police found the Richland Two school bus that was reportedly hijacked this morning with 18 students on board. THE LATEST >> https://bit.ly/3xSxeqb

Posted by WIS TV on Thursday, May 6, 2021

The trainee’s rifle was not loaded, Fort Jackson officials confirmed.

“But to those in the community -- those on the bus would not have known that,” he said. “In training, no ammunition is issued three weeks in.”

Beagle apologized to the community and took responsibility for the base’s failure to be accountable for all their trainees.

“Because the outcome potentially could have been much worse,” he said. “We are thankful, very grateful that it was not. But that leads me to what procedures to change here in the future so we don’t have an incident of this nature.”

The suspect is expected to face multiple counts of kidnapping charges.

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