Sheriff Leon Lott called the incident “a very scary situation” but said none of the 18 children on board the bus were injured. The bus driver was also unharmed.
“Probably one of the scariest calls we can get in law enforcement, and as a school district, is that a school bus has been hijacked with kids on it with someone with a gun. And that was what we had this morning,” Lott told journalists during a press conference on Thursday.
Lott said a Fort Jackson trainee dressed in physical training clothes left the Army base armed with a rifle around 6 p.m. According to Lott, the student was in his third week of training.
Lott said the sheriff’s department received a call reporting a person on Interstate 77 marking people down and trying to get into cars. Lott said the intern eventually ended up at a bus stop where children boarded the bus, and he also moved on. Lott said around the same time that a sheriff̵
“He went by bus and told the bus driver that he did not want to hurt him, but that he should take him to the next town,” Lott said.
According to Lott, the suspect brought the children in front of the bus, where they began asking questions about whether he should hurt them or the driver. According to Lott, the suspect then became frustrated and made the children and the driver get off the bus.
Lott said the suspect drove a few miles and had “trouble operating the bus” before abandoning it with the rifle inside. Lott said the suspect then wandered through neighborhoods trying to get “rice and clothes.”
The suspect was eventually seen near I-77, where he was arrested. Lott said the whole incident lasted about an hour.
Lott said he expects the suspect will be charged with more kidnappings and possibly more.
Fort Jackson said in a tweet that it was aware of what was happening.
“Fort Jackson officials are aware of the incident with an intern this morning. We are working closely with RCSD to respond to this incident,” Fort Jackson said.
Lott said the highest priority now was to meet the needs of those children who were “scared to death.”
School District 2 Superintendent Baron Davis said all the children were offered counseling services when they arrived at the school and the district remains focused on meeting 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. Lott said he expects to release the name of the suspect and more information later Thursday.