May 10, 2011 — -- A bus driver in North Carolina is being hailed a hero after convincing a gun-wielding seventh grader to hand over his loaded gun during a terrifying bus ride.
The 12-year-old boy tried to hijack the school bus to Washington so he could shoot government officials, witnesses told ABC News Charlotte affiliate WSOC-TV.
Driver Evans Okoduwa said today that while was scared during Monday's incident he knew that if he didn't get the child to drop his weapon he "could have been shot."
"I was driving the bus approaching one of the student's stops when he stood and approached me with a gun in his hand," said Okoduwa.
"I got very scared and I thought he immediately was going to use it on me," said the driver. "But after he had stopped and I began to try to get into conversation with him I was a little calmer and said a little prayer in my heart."
"I asked him what was going on and if everything was OK," said Okoduwa, who had been driving the school bus for under a year. "He wasn't crying, but there was definitely a look that convinced me he wasn't playing either."
"After awhile he released the gun into my hands," said Okoduwa.
The student has not been identified because he is a minor. Police from the Charlotte-Mecklenberg School say the suspect has been charged with eight counts of kidnapping and two counts of possession of a weapon on school grounds.
Bus Driver Takes Two Guns From Seventh Grader
In addition to the gun the student held in his hand, police say he had also given a second gun to a fellow classmate.
"[The classmate] was asked to participate and didn't," said CMS Deputy Police Chief Randy Hagler.
Although witnesses on the bus claimed the boy wanted to be taken to Washington to attack government officials, police have declined to discuss a motive and Okoduwa said that the student did not tell him what his intentions were.
Okoduwa described a chaotic scene on the school bus, where the other seven students were clamoring to get out of the bus and away from the armed suspect.
"They were scared," he said. "Some of them weren't sure it was a real gun, but when they saw my reaction they immediately began to get out of the bus. I had to calm them down so they didn't."
"One kid was trying to climb out the window and one was trying to open the emergency exit door," said Okoduwa.
Madeline Hawk, a student who was on the bus during the incident, told WSOC, "He had the gun in his hands and the bus driver convinced him to hand over the guns."
Hagler lauded Okoduwa's "extraordinary" behavior for stopping what might have turned into a tragedy.
"His demeanor when I was on the scene yesterday when this happened was calm and collected, as I'm sure he was on the bus," said Hagler.
"And it seems to me from arriving shortly after this happened that obviously the bus driver was concerned about the safety of the kids on the bus and through his demeanor and actions helped this end as peacefully as it did."
But Okoduwa remained modest, attributing his behavior to God.
"If it wasn't for [God's] help, things could have gone very differently on that bus," he said.