A New Jersey man three weeks into his Army basic training hijacked a bus in an attempt to return home from South Carolina on Thursday morning, according to the base's public affairs office.

Pvt. Jovan Collazo, armed with an Army-issued M-4 carbine rifle without ammunition, hijacked the bus in Richland County and ordered the driver at gunpoint to take him to the next town.

The public affairs office said the 23-year-old from Plainfield, New Jersey, left Fort Jackson while his unit was cleaning up after unit physical training before breakfast.

The Richland County Sheriff's Department said they received reports of a man wearing a blue shirt with "Army" written across the front trying to flag down a vehicle to stop and got on board the bus carrying 18 elementary school students.

After the children peppered Collazo with questions, he became frustrated and stopped a few minutes later releasing everyone off the bus, according to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. He drove the bus for several more miles before abandoning it. He got off the bus leaving his rifle behind and walked through the neighborhood looking for a change of clothes and a ride, officials said. Deputies spotted Collazo and took him into custody.

Lott called the bus driver a hero for remaining calm while Collazo pointed a rifle at both him and the students.

"You can just imagine they were scared to death," Lott said during a news conference. "I'll give the bus driver credit, he kept his cool. His main concern was the safety of the kids and he did his job."

Collazo was charged with 19 counts of kidnapping, armed robbery, carjacking, pointing and presenting, use of a weapon during a violent crime, and unlawful carry of a weapon on school property. He was being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.

"This is one of the scariest calls that we can get in law enforcement," Sheriff Leon Lott said. "We’re all just so grateful that this situation ended peacefully for everyone involved."

The Army said that trainees are issued rifles in preparation for marksmanship training but do not have access to ammunition. Collazo, a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment, at this stage of training, had not been to a marksmanship range.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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