A U.S. Army recruit from New Jersey said he was just trying to get back home when he hijacked a school bus carrying 18 children Thursday in South Carolina.
Jovan Collazo, 23 -- in his third week of basic training in Fort Jackson -- had escaped with his rifle which did not have any ammunition and was trying to flag drivers on Interstate 77 before stopping the bus around 7 a.m., Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said.
As the elementary school-aged children were getting on the bus, Collazo forced his way on and ordered the driver to drive, according to Lott.
The children were using their phones to call their parents and apparently repeatedly asked Collazo if he was going to hurt them, military officials said.
Collazo eventually stopped the bus and ordered everyone off, Lott said. He continued driving for a short distance before abandoning the bus, and was arrested immediately after.
The unidentified bus driver "used his training to protect those children," Lott said before showing a clip of the incident.
The six-minute incident left the kids and driver traumatized and fearing for their lives, Lott said.
"They were not physically hurt but you can just imagine how they feel and what they're going to have to live with," the sheriff said.
It was not clear where in New Jersey he is from.
The recruit faces 19 counts of kidnapping, counts of carjacking, weapon possession on school property and more.
Brig. Gen. Milford Beagle Jr. told Military.com that Collazo was just trying to get home.
"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,” he said. And we think that was truly his intent, and nothing beyond that."
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