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Police: West York bus driver attacked, students 'terrorized'
About 60 West York elementary school students were shaken up but physically unharmed after a woman boarded their school bus Friday morning and attacked the driver.
"It was a very chaotic scene when we first arrived," West York Director of Public Safety Matt Millsaps said. "We were dealing with younger children who were very upset. These kids were certainly terrorized."
A school bus picking up students bound for West York Area School District's three elementary schools was stopped at the intersection of West Poplar and Dewey streets about 8:25 a.m. when a woman boarded.
"She began violently and physically attacking the driver, as well as destroying property on the bus," Millsaps said. "She was just violently wailing on and grabbing at the bus driver. And whatever was in her proximity, she was damaging."
The woman has no known relationship to any of the students or to the driver, according to Millsaps.
The woman was identified as Jackelyn Sanchez, 30, of 1019 W. Poplar St. in the borough. On Friday, police filed charges against her, including two counts of aggravated assault, interference with the custody of children, flight to avoid apprehension, theft, criminal mischief, unauthorized school-bus entry, resisting arrest, reckless endangerment, simple assault, strangulation, disorderly conduct and harassment.
Quick-thinking kids: Students on the bus, who ranged from kindergartners to fifth graders, managed to open the bus' emergency exit and flee to safety, Millsaps said.
"I think the students should be commended at some point" for showing good sense, he said.
Some parents were on scene and called 911 immediately after the attack began, according to Millsaps, who said officers arrived moments later.
"The suspect fled but was subdued and restrained by our officers," he said.
Charging documents allege Sanchez got on the bus and wouldn't leave and ripped out the cord of the bus' two-way radio when bus driver Loretta Stump tried to call for help.
Tried to take bus? Sanchez then started punching Stump in the face and head and also choked her, police allege.
She tried to move Stump from the driver's seat "to gain control of the bus," at one point twisting and breaking a gear shifter, documents state.
As children fled the bus, one was knocked down by Sanchez while Sanchez was assaulting Stump, according to police, who said no children were hurt.
Children were screaming and crying as Patrolman Eric Rodgers arrived. One parent yelled out, "that's her" and pointed at Sanchez, who was running away, documents state.
Rodgers gave chase when she refused to stop, police said. He struggled with Sanchez as she resisted arrest, and both ended up on the ground, where Rodgers suffered an injury to his knee and aggravated an earlier injury to his wrist, charging documents allege.
Once in custody, Sanchez gave no information about herself, Millsaps said. She did make statements suggesting she was under the influence of a controlled substance and was singing a song from a children's Disney movie, he said.
Hospitalized: Sanchez was taken to York Hospital and involuntarily committed, he said.
"We want to have her evaluated medically" and also determine whether she was under the influence of a substance, the chief said.
Stump suffered minor injuries, he said.
About 60 students: West York School Superintendent Emilie Lonardi said there were about 60 students on the bus from all of the district's elementary schools.
All but about 20 of them went home with their parents, and some ended up coming to school later, she said.
Lonardi said there was discussion with the students at their schools "to be sure they feel safe."
According to the superintendent, two elementary school principals rode home on the bus with students Friday afternoon and likely will continue doing so into next week, until the students feel comfortable again.
Illegally passed bus: Last summer, West York Police cited Sanchez with illegally passing a school bus, according to court records.
She pleaded guilty June 14 and was ordered to pay $383.50 in fines and costs, records state.
Sanchez still owes about $83 of that amount to the office of District Judge Jennifer Clancy, according to court records.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.