A 15-year-old Oquirrh boy described by classmates as "goody-good" died Tuesday morning of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after shooting a school bus driver and hijacking the bus.
Justin Allgood, a student at Bingham Middle School, led police on a high-speed 30-block chase before crashing into a house at 6035 S. 2000 West,said Salt Lake County Sheriff Aaron Kennard.More than half the 50-foot bus wound up inside the two-story brick home, which partially collapsed on the bus.
Allgood shot Jordan School District bus driver Sula Bearden in the thigh with a .357 Magnum before hijacking the bus. She was in stable condition at Jordan Valley Hospital Tuesday morning.
Salt Lake County sheriff's detective Keith Stephens said there was no advance warning. "Right now we're trying to figure out what set him off. He's never been a problem in the past as near as we can tell," he said.
"He's a great kid. It's just a complete tragedy," Kennard said. "His parents were totally caught off-guard."
Allgood, who had no previous criminal record, may have been distraught over the recent deaths of friends in car accidents.
"He's a good kid who suffered a personal tragedy that maybe just pushed him over the edge," Kennard said. "He (was) having a hard time coping with that."
Gina Schmucker, 15, said she knew Allgood and thought he was a normal teenager. "I consider him one of the goody-goods. He seems to be one of the upper kids."
Two Bingham Middle School students who may have been close to Allgood died in the past year in unrelated traffic accidents. Most recently, 14-year-old Billy Rowell was killed over the weekend in an automobile accident in Utah County.
Rowell's mother, Tina Rossi, said she was not sure if Allgood was close to her son.
"He lived in the neighborhood, and I'm sure he knew Billy. . . . Billy's other close friend just died, too," said Rossi, referring to classmate Jason Collier. Collier, 14, was killed in a rollover accident in December. Passenger and classmate Justin Levet, was seriously injured in that accident.
Allgood was waiting at a bus stop about 4900 Wake Robin Drive (6700 South) when the bus pulled up about 7:20 a.m. It was the first stop of Bearden's route, so no students were on the bus.
Several students were gathered at the bus stop, Bingham Middle School PTA president Rhonda Rose said. Schmucker was walking toward the bus stop when she heard what sounded like the bus backfiring.
Other witnesses at the scene said Allgood got on the bus behind Bearden, showed her the gun and said, "Give me the bus." Bearden asked Allgood for the gun then grabbed the portable radio on the bus and yelled for help.
Bearden initially believed the gun was fake, said her son, Craig Bearden. He added that the youth occasionally rode his mother's bus and that she recognized his face but not his name.
Allgood shot her in the thigh, and the children scattered. None of them was injured.
As she tried to get off the bus, Bearden was crying, "Don't run, help me," according to Schmucker. The girl threw off her backpack and helped the bus driver to the yard of a nearby house, where they called 911.
"She just kept thanking me over and over," Schmucker said.
Schmucker then ran a half block back to her own home, grabbed a belt and towels to help control the bleeding, and summoned her step-father.
A few police officers happened to be in the vicinity when they got the call and began following the bus almost immediately.
Bearden, 37, was in stable condition at Jordan Valley Hospital late Tuesday morning. She's "doing great," said Craig Beardon. "The bullet missed everything. It went out the other side. She's joking and making the best of it."
The chase went through residential neighborhoods and along the Bangerter Highway at speeds reaching 70 mph, causing three separate accidents, before the bus crashed into the house.
Lonnie Whytsek, West Jordan, was stopped at a traffic light a 7000 South and 3200 West with his daughters when he saw the bus and flashing lights of the police cars behind him. Allgood tried to pass him but smashed into his car before going on.
Whytsek dropped off his daughters, then went to the crash scene.
"I'm here to make sure he gets caught because he could have killed me and my little girls," he said.
Dick Johnson, a former sheriff's deputy, lives at the house. He left it after the crash, carrying a gun, and officers tackled him, thinking he was the suspect. He injured his shoulder.
As he left the Jordan Valley Hospital he appeared visibly shaken, his right arm in a sling.
"It was like an earthquake. It was very scary," Johnson said, adding that his attorney had advised him not to comment further.
After the crash, Utah Highway Patrol troopers and sheriff's deputies surrounded the bus and house and fired two tear gas "ferrets" into the bus. Because there was no response they figured Allgood was in the house, so they called the telephone number and used a bullhorn.
Apparently, however, Allgood was already dead inside the bus.
Neighbors were not allowed to go into their houses, so they stood around and watched the drama unfold. Many whose children attended Calvin Smith Elementary School, less than two blocks from the scene, went to check on their children.
Vaughn Smith's 9-year-old niece had just walked to school when he saw television reports of the hijacking.
"I flew out of the house and just came down here to make sure she made it," he said.
The school was under "lock-down" Tuesday morning as law enforcement officers attempted to apprehend the young hijacker. Juanita Carter, the school's secretary, said principal Kent Fuller was visiting students in each classroom to assure them that police and school officials had taken steps to ensure they were safe.
Allgood's parents were called, and the father said he had noticed the gun was missing.
At Bingham Middle School, the bus' original destination, Principal Al Zylstra met each bus as it pulled up to the school and told students to go immediately to their first-period class.
Frightened that the student may bring the bus to the school, Zylstra kept the school's 600 students under lock-down in first period classes for more than an hour. Zylstra said students later continued on to second-period and resumed their day as normal.
Students will be offered counseling to deal with the incident.
Although some of Jordan School District's buses are equipped with video cameras, it was not clear whether Beardon's 84-passenger bus had one, said Brent Huffman of the district's Transportation Department. Bearden had had a few discipline problems on the bus but nothing out of the ordinary, he said.
A meeting of Jordan district bus drivers will be called later this week so they can air their concerns about safety, said Rick McGuire, the deputy director of the Utah School Employees Association.
"This brings up some real questions of safety. In a bus, you always have your back to everybody," Mc-Guire said, calling Wednesday's violent attack on a driver a first for the state.
"We've had minor incidents, but never with a weapon to my knowledge," the 18-year veteran of the statewide organization said. "We've been really fortunate."
No one knew for sure Tuesday what set Allgood off. In his case, there was no advance warning.
Schmucker knew Allgood as "Bug" since seventh grade. He was just a normal kid, she says. He was in two of her classes at Bingham Middle School and she saw him on the bus everyday.
Maybe that's why she wasn't scared when she walked up to the bus and helped the woman.
"She just said `thanks Gina,' " the girl said. "I didn't feel brave. I was just trying to get her away from him."
Rory Pentico lives at the corner where the students gather to wait for the bus.
"I thought they were all really good kids," Pentico said. "We've never had problems before."
Russ and Chris, who were also in ninth grade with Allgood, played basketball with him at lunch.
"He had bad moods and sometimes got in fights, but he was normal," Russ said.
Deseret News staff writers Amy Donaldson, Cala Byram, Matt Bennett, Alan Edwards, Lucinda Dillon, Marjorie Cortez and Joe Costanzo contributed to this report.