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Man Arrested for Stealing Children on School Bus

Aired January 24, 2002 - 16:05   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Now we have more on the frightening journey of 13 students who were taken more than 100 miles away from home by their bus driver. Let's go now to Landover Hills, Maryland, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., where the bus and the students were found.

Here now is Bob Barnard of our affiliate, WTTG. Hello, Bob.

BOB BARNARD, WTTG REPORTER: Hi, Judy. The bus is here right now. The children are fine. And the driver is under arrest. He's a 62-year-old man, only driving the bus for the school there since September. He had a loaded rifle onboard. There, the bus right behind me here, the Oley Valley School District bus, parked now in a Family Dollar parking lot just outside Washington, D.C. in suburban Maryland here, in Prince George's County. This is Landover Hills.

The driver apparently turned himself in this afternoon. He pulled into this Family Dollar parking lot and flagged down a police officer. The officer, we're told, had no idea that there was a bus missing from Pennsylvania. But this gentlemen said that he had a bus filled with 13 children, he had a rifle onboard, and he wanted to give himself up.

We've got some videotape I believe we can show you, which was from about an hour or so ago, when the authorities transferred these 13 students from their own bus to a public school bus here in Prince George's County. They eventually drove them to police headquarters, where the children are being spoken to, and where they eventually will be reunited with their parents, who are driving down here.

We got here and the authorities were taking the children three or four at a time into the Family Dollar store to use the facilities and to get something to drink. What the authorities have not been able to tell us is why the bus driver, Otto Nuss, was bringing the bus here to suburban Maryland, and what was on his mind, why he had the loaded rifle. What he was intending to do. What he eventually did though, Judy, was himself up and allow the children to be taken into police custody, where they are all right.

When we were first here they were waving out the windows. They looked a little subdued when they were being brought onto the other public school bus to be taken down to police headquarters.

WOODRUFF: Bob, we don't know whether the gunman, or the driver, rather, attempted to use or threaten the children with the gun? We don't know any of that?

BARNARD: We don't know what the children said. We have shouted out to some of the kids when they were getting on the other school bus, and they didn't answer us, even though, again, they were pretty enthusiastically waving when the media started arriving here this afternoon. We don't know if the children were ever threatened. But the police say when this man turned himself in, he was not holding the rifle. That it was on the bus, and that none of the children were near the rifle, either.

We'll hopefully find out later this evening what indeed was going on inside the bus, how frightened the children were and whether they were threatened at all.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Barnard of CNN's affiliate, WTTG, here in Washington. Bob, thanks very much. And also, thanks for that clarification about the fact that he was not holding the gun.

Now let's go back to where this all started, Oley Township, Pennsylvania, not to far from Reading, Pennsylvania. Deborah Feyerick is there. Deborah, tell us as much as you've been able to learn.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, some terrifying hours for the parents of those 13 schoolchildren. When those parents left here from the Oley Township Municipal Building, just about 45 minutes ago en route to pick up their children, very much relieved. I'm joined with Pennsylvania State Trooper, Mr. Albert. Tell me, what is going on, as far as the children? This man apparently surrendered.

RAYMOND ALBERT, PA STATE POLICE: Yes, apparently about 2:00 p.m., he was traveling in Maryland, near Landover, Maryland. And what we just found out a little bit ago is that he actually spotted a Prince George's County police car, and flagged the police car over, and kind of simultaneously, the children were waving their arms out the windows. And he walked up to the police car and said, "I know you're looking for me, I want to give up."

And they arrested him. They found a shotgun in the bus. And the good news is all the children are safe. And as we speak, the parents are being transported via bus by state police escort to Maryland.

FEYERICK: Is there any indication why he went on this joyride?

ALBERT: We have no indication why that is.

FEYERICK: Now, you're looking at charges against him. What could those include?

ALBERT: Well, they could include things of kidnapping, unlawful restraint, endangering the welfare of children, things like that. But as we speak, we don't know what the specific charges will be, and who will take the investigation over.

FEYERICK: Now, Otto Nuss, the bus driver, has been working for the school district for about a year, and you did a background check on him. Can you tell us about that? ALBERT: Pennsylvania law requires that any person working with children, whether it be a school bus driver or schoolteacher, that they have a criminal background check be submitted to the Pennsylvania State Police for any child abuse, or any criminal history.

FEYERICK: As far as you know, his was clean.

ALBERT: Well, that is the responsibility of the employer, to be hired. And as far as we know, yes.

FEYERICK: OK. And he is 64 years old, you're telling us?

ALBERT: 64 years old.

FEYERICK: OK. When will he be questioned? Is he being questioned now? Will he brought back here and questioned here as well?

ALBERT: All we know is he's in custody with the Prince George's County police at their district three headquarters. And I'm sure he is being interviewed there, if possible, and then eventually brought back to Pennsylvania.

FEYERICK: All right, Raymond Albert of the Pennsylvania State Troopers, thank you very much for joining us today.

So, Judy, there you have it. Thirteen children. They seem to be safe. There are counselors at local hospitals who are standing by to offer any sort of psychiatric counseling that the children may need. They'll also be there for the parents as well.

We spoke to a neighbor of the bus driver, and she says he was a quiet man who moved into the house about four or five years ago. Prior to that, he had been living in a large farmhouse with his mother. She passed away, and that's when he moved into the smaller house. Prior to the working for the school district, he was working for a pie company -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. CNN's Deborah Feyerick, reporting for us from Oley Township. Thanks, Deborah.




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