The Alhambra School District in Phoenix has revised its school bus policy after a man with a loaded gun casually walked onto a bus and hitched a ride to an elementary school.
Phoenix police said 29-year-old Jeremy West followed a student and was able to talk his way onto a school bus, where a student found a fully-loaded handgun magazine Thursday.
West was arrested about 9:30 p.m. Thursday and booked into jail after police received numerous phone calls identifying the suspect from a surveillance video aboard the bus, said Phoenix police Officer James Holmes.
Holmes on Friday morning said that the suspect boarded the bus, walked to the back and sat down. He was able to convince a school bus assistant that he was with a 14-year-old student who had boarded the bus Thursday morning ahead of him.
Alhambra District spokeswoman Linda Jeffries would not say if the bus assistant or driver violated protocol.
"The district has allowed parents, volunteers and even employees residing within our school district to ride our busses to and from school for the past 20 years," Jeffries said.
The policy had been to ask the adult and the child they were accompanying if they were together, but after Thursday's incident the policy is dramatically changing.
The district will still allow parents, volunteers and employees to ride the bus to schools but they all must be registered with the district and possess a district-issued photo identification.
Bus drivers will also be required to request that identification before the adult boards. The adults will sit in the front of the bus and not be allowed to interact with any students. The district is also researching viable emergency response systems to install on school busses.
"We transport over 5,000 students a day. And our parents believe and trust in the school district that their children will be safe while in our care," Jeffries said.
The bus driver and bus assistant are on administrative paid leave while the district investigates the incident.
Holmes said the student who West aligned himself with didn't show any signs of anything being wrong, but later told police West approached him near his house the previous day and asked if he wanted a cigarette or a "fix."
Holmes said the man got on the bus near some apartments on Georgia Avenue on Thursday morning and rode it to Simpson Elementary School on 23rd Avenue in the Alhambra School District.
After they arrived at the school, he asked the assistant if she knew of a church nearby and after she told him of one, he immediately got up and left.
Many of the students told police they saw what they believed was a gun in his pocket. Court documents show police said West did, in fact, have a loaded gun on him when he was on the bus.
"We're lucky that nothing did indeed happen," Holmes said.
The mother of the 14-year-old said she was stunned when she learned what happened.
"I just can't believe he got on the bus and no one really did anything about it, just let him get on there and be able to cruise," said Jennifer Irvin, the boy's mom.
Irvin said the policy changes should have been made sooner and West never should have been able to get on the bus the way he did.
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