A man who in 2021 was an Army trainee in South Carolina was found not guilty by reason of insanity last week in connection with an alleged hijacking of a school bus with 18 elementary students onboard.
Jovan Collazo, who is now 25, had been accused of getting on a bus headed to a Columbia elementary school on May 6, 2021, with an unloaded rifle and telling the driver he didn’t want to hurt him but he wanted him to take him to the next town.
Collazo was evaluated by two doctors who determined he was unable to recognize right from wrong at the time of the incident, Deputy Solicitor for the Fifth Judicial Circuit Daniel Goldberg said in a statement Wednesday.
A judge ruled he was not guilty by reason of insanity, the prosecutor said.
“He will be sent to a Department of Mental Health facility for treatment, but will be able to come back before the court at a later date to determine where he should be housed for the foreseeable future,” Goldberg said.
Collazo was initially charged with 19 counts of kidnapping, armed robbery, carjacking, pointing and presenting, use of a weapon during a violent crime and unlawful carrying a weapon on school property.
Collazo’s public defender, Fielding Pringle, said that after last Thursday’s decision, “We look forward to him receiving the treatment he needs.”
In 2021, Brig. Gen. Milford Beagle Jr. said Collazo, then a trainee, ran away from Fort Jackson by jumping a fence during personal hygiene time shortly before breakfast. Collazo did not have access to ammunition, the then-base commander said.
A video released by the sheriff’s department at the time showed a man, identified as Collazo, running up to the bus driver, holding a rifle to the man and telling him to close the door and drive.
According to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, the man brought the 18 children to the front of the bus, where they started asking questions about whether he was going to hurt them or the driver. Collazo then got frustrated and had the children and driver get off the bus, the sheriff said.
The video, which was edited by the sheriff’s department, shows the man driving the bus and then opening the door and getting off.
Lott said the man drove a few miles and was “having difficulties operating the bus” before abandoning it with the rifle inside. The man then wandered through neighborhoods trying to get “rice and clothes,” Lott said.
Collazo was eventually spotted near I-77, where he was arrested. Lott said the incident lasted about an hour and, according to a news release, no one was hurt.
As of Wednesday, Collazo, who is from New Jersey, was still listed as being held in a county jail, according to online records.
In an email, Leslie Ann Sully, a Fort Jackson Garrison media relations officer, told CNN the Army was “aware of Pvt. Collazo’s case verdict and that he has been ordered to a mental health facility in South Carolina. Considering this outcome, the Army is updating his status and will complete all relevant administrative processes including separating him from the Army.”
Located in the Columbia area, Fort Jackson is the Army’s main production center for basic combat training, according to its website.