Eleven young children and a driver were uninjured Thursday after a man armed with a knife carjacked their school bus and led authorities on a chase, police said.
Jacksonville Police Department Capt. Kenny Boyd said it started about 7:20 a.m. when the carjacker — identified by police as 22-year-old Nicholas John Miller — demanded a vehicle from a woman outside an apartment complex in the 1000 block of North First Street in Jacksonville. She told the man she didn't have a car.
"That's when he ran and jumped on the bus," Boyd said, noting Miller was armed with an "unknown type of knife."
Boyd said Jacksonville authorities pursued the bus up John Harden Drive to Arkansas 5, where Cabot and Arkansas State Police units joined the pursuit. The chase continued at speeds ranging from 30 to 50 mph north to Mountain Springs Road, where the bus stopped and Miller was removed from the vehicle.
The children, all elementary school-age, were taken to the Jacksonville Police Department, where they were reunited with their parents.
Felipe Romo said he was relieved when he finally heard his son, 10-year-old Hidekel, was all right.
"They called us and said somebody was on the bus and they've got a knife," Romo said. "You never think somebody would do something like that."
Hidekel said he was happy to see his parents after the ordeal.
"It was scary," he said, standing between mom and dad in the police station lobby and adding a quick description of what the carjacker was like on board during the chase: "He was saying cuss words."
Counselors will be available to talk to the children who were on the bus, Pulaski County Special School District CEO Paul Brewer said.
Boyd said police don't know the motive for the hijacking, but planned to attempt questioning Miller at some point Thursday. He was later charged with one count of vehicle piracy, a dozen counts of kidnapping and two counts of aggravated assault, all felonies.
He said it's unclear whether Miller made any threats to the children or the driver, noting the investigation is "still going on."
Several videos from motorists who witnessed the chase made their way online soon after it was finished. In two viewable at left, the bus is seen traveling at a moderate speed followed by a long line of police vehicles.
"You do train for barricaded suspects and things like that of course," Boyd said of having to chase a school bus. "It does hit home a little closer when it is children involved."
School district spokesman Deborah Roush said the district is proud of the bus driver's "calmness and ability to keep her wits in a very stressful situation."
"From what we've seen so far, we're just so proud of our bus driver who kept calm and kept the kids safe," she said.