School bus driver Jacob Thomson said he’s not a hero for intervening when he saw a female student walking and acting uncomfortable as a man followed her.
“That instinct of being a dad, I guess, kicked in,” Thomson said Friday about why he drove the bus around the block to check on the student.
The Abilene Independent School District bus driver was starting his middle school route at about 7:30 a.m. Monday when he saw the older man following a teenager girl near the intersection of Butternut and South 16th streets.
“I don’t know what he said to her, but he got her attention in some way. And, it startled her at first. That’s what kind of caught my eye to keep looking to make sure that everything was OK,” Thomson said.
He normally drops off a student at Bowie Elementary at that time of day, but only one other student for his middle school route was on his bus.
“I was very fortunate that God put me in the situation I was in because I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Thomson said. “Thirty seconds or one minute to unload a student at the school could have made all the difference in the world. I might not have been there.”
As Thomson’s bus No. 112 approached the girl, the suspect turned around and walked away.
Thomson told the girl, who is a student at a different middle school not on his route, that she could sit in his bus and wait until her regular bus arrived.
“She was obviously distraught,” Thomson said.
The student said the man tried to kidnap her and told her that he loved her and tried to offer a vape cigarette, Thomson said.
“I guess it’s something to entice your child to come over to,” he said.
Sharing the credit
He contacted bus dispatch and waited a couple of minutes until the student’s regular bus arrived.
After driving a few blocks, Thomson noticed several police vehicles at an unrelated disturbance and pulled over to tell an officer about the incident.
“He followed up and took care of the situation immediately. And, within 30 minutes to an hour, I was told the suspect is in custody. So, shout out to APD for doing their due diligence while they were already inundated with calls and busy doing other things,” Thomson said.
A student resource officer also interviewed the student once she arrived at her middle school, according to a court document.
The student told the SRO the suspect had grabbed her hand and tried to drag her to an abandoned house.
Police said the main was a transient. He was charged with third-degree felony injury to a child, and his bond was set at $15,000. As of Friday afternoon, he was in the Taylor County Jail, according to online jail records.
Abilene police in a news release Thursday commended Thomson’s actions. He said the mother of the student also contacted him to express her gratitude.
“I think more the heroes that should be called out are APD for responding as fast as they did,” Thomson said.
Thomson said he did what any parent would have in the same situation, if they were observant.
“We’re so caught up nowadays to being stuck in our cell phones that we’re not aware of what’s going on around us and others,” Thomson said.
Being constantly aware of events happening in the surroundings is a lesson he tries to teach his young son and daughter, he said.
“Just because it was a female that it happened to doesn’t mean that it’s not boys that are also victims. You try to teach both your kids the same way to be aware of the situation and always pay attention to what’s around them and just be mindful,” Thomson said.
A new bus driver
Thomson is an Abilene native who returned to his hometown after living in San Antonio for a couple of years. He attended Bonham Elementary, the now shuttered Lincoln Middle School and Abilene High.
He worked five years in maintenance at senior living facilities before becoming a bus driver in late October. Abilene ISD, like many districts across the state, has a bus driver shortage.
It’s a job he said he enjoys.
“They’re definitely not as hard to drive as you would think they are. You can swing them around corners better than you think,” he said.
And, the students also have been manageable, he said.
“I don’t really have any problems with mine,” Thomson said about his young riders. “I mean, every batch has its bad apples, but if you just kind of start off and be firm with them but not rude, then you have a lot better success with your kids.”
Laura Gutschke is a general assignment reporter and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Abilene bus driver recalls why he helped girl being followed by man