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Army trainee hijacked school bus full of children in South Carolina

5 months 2 weeks 4 days ago Thursday, May 06 2021 May 6, 2021 May 06, 2021 2:12 PM May 06, 2021 in News
Source: ABC News
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott (photo via WOLO)

COLUMBIA, S.C. - A military trainee was arrested after he allegedly hijacked an elementary school bus with 18 children on board while carrying a rifle.

The Richland County Sheriff's Office said the children and driver on board were safe.

Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr. confirmed the 23-year-old who commandeered the bus was a trainee at the military installation. The suspect is being charged with multiple kidnapping counts. His name has not been released.

Beagle said the weapon did not have ammunition, but the people on board the bus had no way of knowing that at the time.

The incident happened around 7 a.m. Thursday when the unidentified man hopped a barbed wire fence and fled Fort Jackson. The man reportedly boarded the bus and told the driver "he didn’t want to hurt him, but he wanted him to drive him to the next town," according to the sheriff's office.

The suspect began moving the children to the front of the vehicle after bus started moving again.

"The kids started asking lots of questions to the suspect if he was going to hurt them or the bus driver," Sheriff Leon Lott said.

Lott said the suspect "got a little frustrated," and the driver pulled over. The children and driver then got off the bus safely.

The suspect drove the bus for a few miles before abandoning it. He was later spotted by deputies and taken into custody without further incident.

Beagle said the trainee, believed to be in his third week of training, was likely trying to get back to his home in New Jersey. 

"There is nothing that leads us to believe in his counseling, in his screening records coming in, that this had anything to do with harming others, harming himself or anything that links to any type of nefarious activity," Beagle said. "We do experience several soldiers that over the course of initial stages have that desire, that anxiety, and due to separation from their families, to get home. We think that was truly his intent and nothing beyond that."

Fort Jackson issued an apology for the incident and called it a "failure in our accountability procedures that we truly regret."

The students were taken to school where they met with counselors and were reunited with their families. 

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