By ANGIE ALVARADO
Jon Valentine said he was just at the right place at the right time Tuesday morning when he saw a man allegedly “high on something” get on a Palestine Independent School District bus at an apartment complex and try to drive away with more than a dozen children on board.
The incident happened around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at Timbercrest Apartments, 1020 Sugar Lane, where Valentine works as the maintenance supervisor.
“He was walking toward the apartments and he was high on drugs,” Valentine said. “He hopped on the school bus and tried to drive away with the kids on the bus.”
The man, Cedrick Brenard Lewis, 30, of Palestine, remained in the Anderson County Jail Tuesday afternoon on multiple charges, including aggravated kidnapping, according to Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor.
Valentine said he saw the bus driver struggling with the man and jumped on the bus to help.
“This guy was high out of his brain and he’s trying to make the bus go,” Valentine said. “The only thing stopping the bus was the air brake that was on and he was trying to figure out how to turn it off.”
Valentine, 32, and the bus driver managed to wrestle Lewis down as the children watched. They dragged him off the bus and held him until police arrived.
“It was scary,” Valentine said. “I went over to the school to check on the kids to make sure they were OK.
“This guy, he was just walking around, so out of his mind,” a still shaken Valentine told the Herald-Press. “I never thought this idiot was gonna get on a school bus.
“I don’t think he had a gun, but it didn’t matter if he had,” Valentine said about his actions.
According to Valentine, Lewis had started a fight with a resident at the complex earlier in the morning, at about 7:15 a.m.
“This is not my first rodeo with him (Lewis). I had had an altercation with this guy and had a criminal trespass incident with him two weeks ago,” the apartment maintenance supervisor explained.
Valentine said he did not want his actions to be perceived as heroic.
“I just did what anyone would have done. It shook me up,” he said. “I was just at the right place at the right time.
“That there were little kids on the bus, that’s what really got me. Those kids at that age, they’re defenseless. That guy just violated a bunch of little kids, their security and safety was violated. They had to watch someone trying to drive off with them.
“I just want people to know that Palestine schools are still good, that Palestine transportation is still good and that Timbercrest is still a good place to live.”
In addition to the aggravated kidnapping charge, Lewis also was being charged with unlawful use of a motor vehicle, public intoxication, disruption of activities - private or public schools, resisting arrest, search and seizure and criminal mischief, the sheriff said.
Bond had not been set for Lewis as of Tuesday evening.