Suspect for hijacking bus with 18 elementary students waives appearance at preliminary hearing

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 6:42 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Judge Kela Thomas ruled Thursday that enough evidence is present to proceed in the case involving an army trainee hijacking a school bus with 18 elementary students on board.

The suspect, Jovan Collazo, now faces 19 counts of kidnapping as well as other charges.

Collazo had his preliminary hearing Thursday but waived his right to appear. It was only Thomas, lead investigator Brad Maxwell, the prosecutor and Collazo’s lawyer.

Investigators say on May 6, Collazo was accused of escaping from Fort Jackson during his third week as a trainee, tried to wave down a car on the highway and then got on a school bus and forced the driver and kids off.

Collazo is accused of abandoning the bus with his unloaded gun on board and deputies say he was caught by K-9 officers within an hour.

Maxwell said Collazo escaped Fort Jackson because he was trying to get back home to New Jersey.

“He said he was worried about someone coming down to hurt him,” Maxwell said. “He feared someone was trying to get him, someone he got in an altercation with in New Jersey coming to hurt him. He said he was running out of fear and going to New Jersey to protect his family.”

Maxwell confirmed that Collazo said he didn’t want to hurt anyone.

The case continues to move forward and no trial date has been set.

*This story has been updated to reflect Brad Maxwell is the investigator, not John Carwell. Maxwell was using Carwell’s computer for the online prelim hearing, so it showed the incorrect name.

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