A New Jersey cabbie who is an immigrant from Africa is being credited with helping to avert a high school shooting by tricking an enraged and armed teenager into thinking that he had "voodoo" powers that could make the boy vanish. The cabbie then called the police.
The cabbie's call to the cops triggered a lockdown at Trenton Central High School, on Thursday. Teachers turned off classroom lights and closed the doors as cops patrolled the hallways. The school has 2,100 students.
"The students, teachers, and school security were all very calm and everyone felt safe in the building. There were police officers every 50 feet," said Principal Marc Maurice.
The suspect was found and arrested about 3:30 p.m. near the school. He was unarmed at the time, police said.
The student, whose identity is being withheld because he is a minor, faces juvenile charges including unlawful possession of a shotgun and drug offenses.
The cab driver told ABCNews.com that he picked up the teenager outside the school around 11 a.m. Thursday.
"He asked me to take him to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Trenton (the student's home) and that this would be a roundtrip back to the school," said the driver, who requested anonymity because he fears for his safety. Trenton police confirmed the driver's identity and his version of events.
When the student got back in the car, he sat up front next to the driver and pulled out a silver pistol. "He told me his classmates 'almost just killed me in the cafeteria, so I'm going to kill them,'" the cabbie said.
The student, who the driver describes as having bloodshot eyes and shaking, pointed the gun into the driver's stomach. The cabbie then did his best to calm the boy down.
"I told him that I knew how he felt, that I was once in his place, a former rebel in my West African country," said the driver, who immigrated to the U.S. from Liberia. His country was involved in a civil war for 14 years, but he was never a rebel, the cabbie said.
"I convinced him that he should wait until 3 p.m. to go to the school because I could get some medicine for him to make him disappear," he said.
Because of the driver's strong accent and West African roots, he believes the boy might have thought he had "voodoo powers," the cabbie said with a laugh.
"I dropped him off at an address on Adeline Street and gave him a wrong number to call when he was ready," said the cabbie. "Then I called my cab company and they called the police."
The suspect is being held in the Middlesex County Youth Detention Center, Lt. Steve Varn of the Trenton Police Department said.
"I commend the cab driver for calling police," Varn said. "He absolutely played a significant part in averting the possibility of a tragic incident."
Maurice describes the student as a troubled child with a very difficult life. "He was on our list to be transferred to a smaller institution," said Maurice. "We were very supportive of him and at this new school, additional services would have been provided based on his special needs."
As for the cab driver, he spent Friday back on the road picking up passengers.
"I want to stay far away from these gangs in Trenton," he said. "I just did what I thought was right."