An armed military trainee accused of hijacking a school bus let the children off after they frustrated him by asking too many questions, authorities have revealed.
Jovan Collazo, 23, a trainee at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, got on the bus at an interstate highway on Thursday before demanding the driver divert to a nearby town.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott told reporters at a press conference that Mr Collazo “told the bus driver that he didn’t want to hurt him”, but to drive to a town with the children on board.
Mr Collazo ordered all 18 children to the front of the bus, but the situation became “frustrating” for the alleged hijacker when they overburdened him with questions, according to Mr Lott.
“The kids were asking questions. ‘Are you gonna hurt us?’ ‘Are you a soldier?’ ‘Are you a bus driver? So they were being kids, they were being kids,” said the sheriff, “I think that added to the frustration that he had.”
After six minutes, the military trainee let the driver and children off the bus before driving a short distance along the interstate, before stopping and abandoning the vehicle.
Mr Lott said it was the first time a school bus had been hijacked by an armed suspect in his career, but that fortunately the driver had recently been trained to deal with such a situation.
“Bus drivers are unsung heroes, and we saw that today,” said Mr Lott. “We saw a bus driver who cared about the children on that bus.”
The sheriff also said of the children: “There was six minutes – they were traumatised. Six complete minutes that the bad guy was on the bus with a gun”.
Footage from on board the bus was also released, showing a man holding a firearm and dressed in a T-shirt with the word “ARMY” on the front.
The individual, believed to be Mr Collazo, could be heard shouting instructions at the driver: "Close the door, drive, drive!"
The 23-year-old, who left Fort Jackson after just three weeks of training, was afterwards arrested and charged with 19 counts of kidnapping, armed robbery, and several other felonies, according to Mr Lott.