In a shocking turn of events, an Army recruit who hijacked a school bus in South Carolina has been found not guilty by reason of insanity. The verdict was handed down by the jury after a four-day trial, in which the defense presented evidence of the soldier’s severe mental illness.
In this horrific incident, the recruit, Jovan Collazo from New Jersey, boarded a school bus carrying 18 children and held the driver at gunpoint. The bus was eventually stopped by police, and all the children were safely rescued. The Fort Jackson trainee was brought up on dozens of charges including 19 counts of kidnapping
Throughout the trial, the defense argued that the would-be-Soldier’s actions were the result of his severe mental illness, which had been exacerbated by his experiences serving in combat zones. Several medical experts testified that the trainee suffered from PTSD, depression, and other mental health conditions, such as Schizophrenia which had gone untreated for years.
Jovan Collazo, the Fort Jackson recruit charged with hijacking a school bus full of children, was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Collazo will be committed for 120 days.https://t.co/Wli38vA5M3
— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) March 13, 2023
Two different mental evaluations of Collazo found he had schizophrenia and that he thought someone was coming to hurt him and his family when he left the base, public defender Fielding Pringle said in court Thursday.
Interviews with the trainee’s family and other Soldiers showed he was struggling with the undiagnosed mental illness for years and that his condition was deteriorating during basic training, Pringle said, according to media reports.
The prosecution, however, argued that the recruit was fully aware of his actions and should be held accountable for them. They pointed out that he had planned the hijacking and had even written a letter to his family explaining his actions.
In the end, the jury agreed with the defense’s argument and found the hijacker not guilty by reason of insanity. He was sent to a mental health facility for treatment, and it will be up to the court to determine when and if he can be released. Pringle said once he started getting help, Collazo’s mental condition improved rapidly. In the nearly two years he has been in jail getting treatment, he hasn’t had a single disciplinary infraction.
The verdict has sparked controversy among the community, with some people expressing concern that the hijacker is being let off the hook for his actions. Others, however, believe that it is important to recognize the impact that mental illness can have on a person’s behavior and that the man needs treatment rather than punishment.