Army trainee waives bond hearing in school bus hijack case
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — An Army trainee has waived his first chance to appear in court on dozens of charges related to allegations he held a bus full of South Carolina elementary school students and its driver hostage at gunpoint.
A bond hearing had been scheduled Friday for Jovan Collazo, but court officials said he waived that appearance, which means he remains in the Richland County jail. Another court hearing is scheduled for later this month.
Collazo has been in jail since he was arrested Thursday on two dozen charges, including 19 counts of kidnapping. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said that Collazo — a trainee at Fort Jackson, the U.S. Army’s largest basic training facility, in Columbia — “ran off post and escaped” with an Army-issued M4 rifle.
Collazo went to a nearby bus stop where children were waiting to be taken to Forest Lake Elementary School, boarded the bus, but told the driver he didn’t to hurt anyone, just to be driven to the next town, Lott said.
Video released by authorities showed Collazo getting on the bus, shouting at the driver to close the door and drive.
Some of the 18 students on the bus used cellphones to let parents know what was happening, Lott said. After some of the children asked repeatedly if Collazo planned to hurt them or the driver, the trainee “got a little frustrated” and ordered the bus stopped, allowing the driver and children to get off, Lott said. He was on board with them for a total of six minutes.
Collazo then drove the bus several miles (kilometers) before abandoning it, with the rifle inside. He was subsequently spotted by deputies and arrested without incident, according to the sheriff.
Fort Jackson Commanding Brig. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr. said Thursday the trainee — in his third week of basic training — did not have ammunition in his weapon and seemed to be trying to make his way back home.
Pledging to fix what he called “a key failure in our accountability processes,” laid bare by the incident, Beagle said the Army may also take disciplinary action against Collazo.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.