COLUMBIA, S.C. (CBSNewYork) — An Army trainee from New Jersey was arrested Thursday after hijacking a school bus in South Carolina at gunpoint.

It had to be terrifying when a runaway Army recruit got on a school bus and pointed his rifle at the driver, who was responsible for the 18 elementary school students on board.

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“You can just imagine they were scared to death, along with that bus driver,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said. “I’ll give the bus driver credit. He kept his cool. He didn’t overreact. He didn’t get excited. He kept his cool enough that kept the situation calm, and I’ll tell you, his main concern was the safety of those kids and he did his job.”

Jovan Collazo (Credit: CBS)

Authorities in Richland County, South Carolina, say 23-year-old Jovan Collazo, described as very quiet, was in his third week of basic training at Fort Jackson and jumped the fence line with his weapon.

“He did make it known to the driver up front, he did not want to harm anyone,” said Brig. Gen. Milford Beagle, with Fort Jackson. “One thing that he was trying to do, because he was in his physical training uniform, was trying to acquire new clothes and a ride.”

Army officials say that soldier-in-training is from New Jersey and was likely trying to get home.

They also say the weapon wasn’t loaded, but nobody knew that as the hijacking was happening.

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As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reports, the curiosity of the kids may have gotten the best of him.

“The kids started asking lots of questions. The suspect got a little frustrated,” Lott said.

He told everyone to get off and drove a couple more miles before leaving the gun on the bus and taking off.

“The kids are safe physically. Now we just have to address them psychologically and mentally,” Lott said.

Eventually, officers captured the New Jersey native. He faces 19 counts of kidnapping.

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CBS2’s Jessica Layton contributed to this report.

CBSNewYork Team