A Fort Jackson trainee is in custody after a faculty bus was hijacked in South Carolina, sheriff says

By Gregory Lemos, CNN

(CNN) – A Fort Jackson trainee is in custody after allegedly hijacking a school bus full of students en route to Forest Lake Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina, the Richland County sheriff said.

Sheriff Leon Lott called the incident “a very frightening situation” but said none of the 18 children on board the bus were injured. The bus driver was also uninjured.

“Probably one of the scariest calls we can get in law enforcement, and as a school district, is that a school bus with kids was hijacked with someone with a gun. And we had that this morning,” Lott told reporters during a news conference Thursday.

Lott said that around 7:00 a.m., a Fort Jackson trainee in physical training clothing left the military base armed with a rifle. According to Lott, the trainee was in his third week of training.

According to Lott, the RSCD received a phone call reporting a person on Interstate 77 stopping people and trying to get into cars. Lott said the apprentice eventually ended up at a bus stop where kids were being loaded onto the bus and he got on too. Around the same time, Lott said a sheriff’s assistant was stopped by a parent who said their child was on a bus with a man who has a gun. Several children called their parents on cell phones to report the incident, Lott said.

“He got on the bus and told the bus driver that he didn’t want to hurt him, but rather take him to the next town,” said Lott.

According to Lott, the suspect took the children to the front of the bus, where they started asking questions about whether he would harm them or the driver. According to Lott, the suspect was frustrated and let the children and driver get off the bus.

According to Lott, the suspect drove the bus a few miles and “had difficulty operating the bus” before parking it with the gun inside. Lott said the suspect then wandered the neighborhoods trying to get “rice and clothes”.

The suspect was eventually discovered near I-77 where he was arrested. Lott said the entire incident lasted about an hour.

Lott said he expected the suspect to face multiple kidnapping charges and possibly more.

Fort Jackson said in a tweet it was known what happened.

“Fort Jackson officials are aware of the incident involving a trainee this morning. We are working closely with RCSD to respond to this incident,” said Fort Jackson.

Lott said the top priority now is addressing the needs of children who are “scared to death”.

School District 2 Superintendent Baron Davis said that counseling services were offered to all children upon arrival at school and the district continued to focus on addressing their social and emotional needs.

Lott said the sheriff’s department, the Columbia Police Department and the South Carolina Highway Patrol were all involved in responding to the incident. He and Lott expect to release the suspect’s name and other information later Thursday.

Fort Jackson is the Army’s primary production center for basic combat training, according to its website.

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