Authorities believe Jovan Collazo wanted to return to New Jersey

By Chris Harris
May 07, 2021 02:30 PM
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Jovan Collazo
Jovan Collazo
| Credit: Richland County Sheriff's Department/AP/Shutterstock

An Army trainee from New Jersey is behind bars in South Carolina, after authorities say he boarded an elementary school bus on Thursday, armed with a gun, and briefly hijacked the vehicle.

The incident happened at about 7 a.m., just outside Fort Jackson in Columbia.

During a press conference Thursday, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott identified 23-year-old Jovan Collazo as the man who allegedly held the bus driver and several students onboard hostage before letting them off and driving away.

Collazo, Lott explained, was dressed in his physical training clothes, and allegedly left the base with a rifle.

Dispatchers began receiving calls about a man trying to flag down cars on the interstate.

According to Lott, who called it a "very scary situation," Collazo made his way to a school bus stop, where he stood with several children who were awaiting the bus to Forest Lake Elementary School.

Collazo allegedly boarded the bus, and "told the bus driver he didn't want to hurt anybody; he wanted him to drive him to the next town," Lott said.

Video from inside the bus, played during Thursday's press conference, allegedly shows Collazo boarding the bus before shouting at the driver to close the door and drive off.

He was allegedly on the bus for a total of 6 minutes before ordering it stopped, and letting the 18 kids aboard and the driver off.

Lott said Collazo then drove the bus for several miles before ditching it.

Police found the bus with the rifle inside.

There was no ammunition in the gun, and at the time of his arrest, Collazo was not in possession of any ammunition.

Lott said Collazo only began basic training three weeks ago.

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Investigators believe Collazo wanted to return to New Jersey.

He has been charged with 19 counts of kidnapping and numerous additional charges of carjacking, possessing a weapon on school property, armed robbery and weapons possession during a violent crime.

Attorney information for him was unavailable. It was unclear if he had entered pleas to the charges against him.