A South Carolina Army trainee charged with hijacking a school bus full of children earlier this month is likely to face new charges after making failed attempts to escape law enforcement custody, as new details show the children thwarted any further attack with their repeated questions, according to officials and a recent report.
The day after his hijacking arrest, Jovan Collazo assaulted a guard at the Richland County jail and tried to escape, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott told The State newspaper. Collazo, 23, broke his ankle during that incident and was taken to a hospital, from which he also tried to escape, Lott said.
“We have additional charges that we’ll eventually be placing on him,” Lott told the newspaper.
According to an incident report Lott read to the paper, Collazo was being moved to a restraint chair when he pushed a guard away, ran for a door, then up the stairs to a higher floor. From a railing, Collazo jumped to the floor below, landing on his feet and then his side, the report said.
This image released by the Richland County, S.C., Sheriff’s Department, shows Jovan Collazo, an Army trainee, who was arrested and charged with dozens of crimes after authorities say he boarded a South Carolina school bus with a gun Thursday, May 6, 2021, and held the driver and elementary students hostage before letting them off the bus. (Richland County Sheriff’s Department via AP)
Fielding Pringle, Collazo’s defense attorney, told the paper Thursday her client was not trying to escape during the incident, which happened while he was handcuffed, on suicide watch and unclothed.
“People who are thinking clearly and normally do not run around jail dorms completely naked with their hands cuffed behind their back, running into locked steel doors and jumping from the second tier to the floor below,” Pringle said.
Collazo has been in jail since his arrest on two dozen charges, including 19 counts of kidnapping. According to authorities said then that Collazo — a trainee at Fort Jackson, the U.S. Army’s largest basic training facility, in Columbia — ran from the post 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 did not want to hurt anyone, just to be driven to the next town, authorities said.
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.
Speaking to ABC’s “Good Morning America” earlier this week, Kenneth Corbin, who was driving the bus at the time, agreed, and credited the children with cutting the terrifying incident short.
Corbin said Collazo ordered all of the kids to move to seats in the front of the bus. But the seating change prompted questions from the students, especially the younger children, Corbin said.
“The kids were the ones that actually got the gentleman off of the bus and they pretty much had my back as much as my concerns were with them,” Corbin told GMA. “At the end when they started questioning him, it seemed to have frustrated him because his main objective were to get to the next town, but I think we were only on the road about four miles and he just got frustrated with the questions and just told me to stop the bus and get off. All y’all get off now.”
Corbin continued: “They asked him, ‘Why are you doing this?’ He never did have an answer for this one. They asked, was he going to hurt them? He said, ‘No.’ They asked, ‘Are you going to hurt our bus driver?’ He said, ‘No. I’m going to put you off the bus’ … He sensed more questions coming and I guess something clicked in his mind and he said enough is enough already, and he told me to stop the bus, and just get off.”
Collazo drove the bus several miles before abandoning it, with the rifle inside. Spotted by deputies, he was arrested without incident, according to the sheriff.
The South Carolina Department of Education later recognized Corbin “for his heroic efforts that kept students aboard his bus safe and out of harms way.”
Fox New’ Emmett Jones contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press.