Army Recruit Accused of Hijacking Bus Full of Schoolchildren May Plead Insanity

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(Joshua Magbanua/DVIDS)

The Fort Jackson recruit accused of hijacking a school bus full of children with an empty rifle has indicated he intends to assert he is “not guilty by reason of insanity,” according to documents filed in the Richland County Court.

An order requiring that Jovan Collazo submit to an evaluation of his “criminal responsibility and capacity” was filed in the Richland Circuit Court on Sept. 27. The order requires that Collazo, who fled Army basic training at Fort Jackson in May 2021, be evaluated by the state Department of Mental Health within 60 days.

Circuit Judge Debra McCaslin issued the order with the consent of both the defense and the prosecution “after defense counsel has indicated the intent to assert the defense of not guilty by reason of insanity.”

Collazo, 24, has been charged with nineteen counts of kidnapping as well as armed robbery, carjacking, pointing a firearm, carrying a weapon on school property and possession of a weapon during a violent crime, according to court records.

In South Carolina, the defense is responsible for proving to a jury that Collazo is not guilty by reason of insanity. If Collazo is found legally insane, he would not be incarcerated in a state prison. Instead, he would be confined for “care and treatment,” according to South Carolina law.

The 5th Circuit Solicitors Office, which is prosecuting the case, said its policy is to not comment on ongoing prosecutions.

Following his arrest, Collazo allegedly attempted to escape from the Richland County jail. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Collazo assaulted a guard before breaking his leg in the escape attempt.

But Collazo’s attorney, 5th Circuit chief public defender Fielding Pringle, characterized it as a desperate act by a troubled man on suicide watch.

“People who are thinking clearly and normally do not run around jail dorms completely naked with their hands cuffed behind their back running into locked steel doors and jumping from the second tier to the floor below,” Pringle said, at the time.

“These are not the actions of a healthy and clear-minded individual who is trying to escape. They are the actions of a very troubled young man who was on suicide watch at the time,” Pringle said.

The State was not able to reach Pringle for this story.

Collazo fled basic training at Fort Jackson on the morning of May 7, 2021. After hopping the perimeter fence of the country’s largest Army basic training facility, Collazo attempted to hitch rides from passing cars on Interstate 77. Armed with his unloaded rifle, Collazo then hijacked the school bus, Lott said at the time.

Authorities say that Collazo ordered the bus driver to take him to the next town. But he got frustrated when the children began asking him questions, and he told the bus driver to stop after traveling about 3.5 miles. He ordered the children and driver off the bus and then drove a few more miles before being arrested by sheriff’s deputies.

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