Armed Army trainee hijacked South Carolina school bus, officials say

An armed Army trainee from Fort Jackson, S.C., hijacked a bus full of elementary school students on Thursday before letting the children off, abandoning the bus and his rifle and being arrested, according to local authorities.

The incident began around 7 a.m. at Fort Jackson, outside of Columbia, where the trainee, dressed in physical training clothing and armed with a rifle, “ran off post,” according to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.

The man tried to flag down vehicles on Interstate 77 before stopping at a bus stop and entering the vehicle along with children headed to Forest Lake Elementary School.


He “told the bus driver that he didn’t want to hurt him but he wanted him to drive him to the next town,” Lott said at a news conference.

The trainee brought the kids to the front of the bus where they “started asking lots of questions to the suspect, if he was going to hurt them or the bus driver," Lott said.

The suspect “got a little frustrated” at the questioning, the bus was stopped and the trainee let the children and driver off. He then drove himself several miles, abandoned the vehicle, left his rifle on board and was arrested after wandering through neighborhoods, according to Lott.

Neither the bus driver nor the 18 children on board were harmed in the incident.

The suspect’s name has not been released, though he is expected to be charged with multiple counts of kidnapping, according to Lott.

He added that the suspect was in his third week of a 10-week basic training at the Army base.


Fort Jackson said in a tweet that it was aware of the incident and would later hold a press conference.

Lott described the incident as “probably one of the scariest calls that we can get in law enforcement,” saying police are “very thankful that we had a situation this morning that ended very peacefully where we didn't have anyone that was hurt.”

Police were alerted to the hijacking after some students used their cellphones to call their parents, he said. 

The Richland School District also released a statement saying students involved were transported to their school, where they received support from employees and counselors and were reunited with their parents and guardians.

“We are so fortunate and grateful that this incident ended peacefully thanks to the actions of our bus driver, our students, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, the City of Columbia Police Department, the S.C. Highway Patrol and other first responders,” district superintendent Baron Davis said in a statement.