The time a trainee escaped boot camp and hijacked a school bus

Busting out of boot camp is not a new idea. However, a particular Army trainee made his escape in an extreme way.
Miguel Ortiz Avatar
(U.S. Army)

The military isn’t for everyone. Sometimes, people discover this fact during basic training and decide that they want out. From Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego to Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, busting out of boot camp is not a new idea. However, one Army trainee made his escape in an extreme way.

fort jackson boot camp
Fort Jackson is one the Army’s largest basic training posts (U.S. Army)

On May 6, 2021, 23-year-old Pvt. Jovan Collazo was in his third week of basic training with the 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment at Fort Jackson. After a morning a physical training, while his company was washing up, Collazo left the barracks with his Army-issue M4 carbine. He climbed over a fence to escape the base and boarded a school bus full of children headed to a nearby elementary school.

“After all the kids got on the bus, the trainee got on the bus dressed in his PT clothes and with a rifle and told the bus driver he didn’t want to hurt him but he wanted him to drive to the next town,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott during a press conference. “So the bus driver started driving.” During the hijacking, the bus driver remained calm and did not aggravate Collazo’s mental health condition. “I will tell you: His main concern was the safety of those kids and he did his job,” Sheriff Lott said, praising the driver.

escape from boot camp on bus
Collazo points his M4 at the bus driver during the hijacking (Richland County Sheriff)

Shortly after commandeering the bus, Collazo released the passengers and drove about a mile by himself. He then abandoned the bus, along with his rifle, and attempted to flag down passing cars. Alerted to the bus hijacking, law enforcement officers caught up to Collazo and arrested him without incident. “Pvt. Collazo, a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment, at this stage of training, had not been to a marksmanship range or had access to ammunition,” an Army statement noted after Collazo’s escape.

Collazo was charged with 19 counts of kidnapping, armed robbery, carjacking, pointing a firearm, carrying a weapon on school property and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. After his arrest, Collazo attempted to escape jail which resulted in a broken leg.

collazo escape boot camp
Collazo suffers from schizophrenia and is receiving treatment for his condition (Richland County Sheriff)

During the legal proceedings, it was revealed that Collazo suffers from schizophrenia. As a result, he was unable to understand the illegal nature of the bus hijacking. Collazo plead not guilty by reason of insanity. On March 9, 2023, South Carolina judge Debra McClaslin upheld the finding. As a result, Collazo will be evaluated by the South Carolina Department of Mental Health and spend at least 120 days in a mental health facility to receive treatment for his illness.