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Ex-Ft. Jackson recruit who kidnapped bus full of kids found not guilty by reason of insanity

A total of 18 children and a driver were aboard the bus that he hijacked.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A Fort Jackson trainee who kidnapped a bus full of schoolchildren near Columbia almost two years ago has been found not guilty by the reason of insanity. 

Judge Deborah McCaslin issued her decision to Jovan Collazo at the Richland County Courthouse Thursday, saying he wasn't in control of his actions at the time of the incident. 

"It was a result of mental disease or defect and he did not have the capacity to distinguish moral or legal right from moral or legal wrong," Judge McCaslin said. McCaslin had gotten reports from medical professionals who had evaluated Collazo before making her decision. 

He was ordered to go to facility run by the South Carolina Department of Mental Health for no more than 120 days. A chief administrative judge will then have a hearing to decided his ongoing custody status. 

The incident happened on May 6, 2021 near Columbia. At the time, Collazo was in his third week of training at Fort Jackson after coming there from New Jersey. 

Post officials say Collazo took his unloaded M4 military rifle with him and jumped a fence during what was supposed to be personal hygiene time. Around 7 a.m., the recruit went to an area near Interstate 77 and Percival Road to flag down a driver to take him away from the area. When that didn't work, deputies said Collazo walked over to a bus stop at Eagle Park Road and Percival Road, where a group of students were boarding the bus to go to Forest Lake Elementary in Richland School District Two. A total of 18 children and a driver were aboard.

Officers said after the students were on, Collazo ran up the steps of the bus and began demanding for the driver to take him to a nearby town. He reportedly told the driver he didn't want to hurt anyone, but needed him to do as he asked.  

The commanding general at Fort Jackson at the time said it was his belief that the Collazo was just trying to get home and didn't intend harm

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said eventually, the trainee became frustrated when the children started asking him questions, including "are you in the Army?" and "are you going to hurt the bus driver?" Lott said Collazo then asked the bus driver and students to get off the bus.  

The whole ordeal aboard the bus lasted for six minutes.

Investigators say Collazo then tried to drive the bus himself for about a mile but gave up because he wasn't familiar with the controls. Officers said he got off the bus, leaving his rifle behind. They said he then ran to nearby homes in search of clothes. It was at this point that deputies caught up to him and took him into custody.  

He had been held at the Richland County jail since the incident. 

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