Pellets fired at occupied school bus

Published April 21, 2007

CLEARWATER - A Pinellas County school bus delivering 12 students home in north Clearwater Friday had two of its windows shattered by a pellet gun.

No one was injured in the shooting. And there were no suspects by Friday evening, said Clearwater Police spokesman Wayne Shelor.

The incident happened just before 3:30 p.m. as the bus, which had picked up students from Belcher Elementary School, was turning from northbound U.S. 19, east onto State Road 590.

Just as the bus was leaving the fly-over, the shots broke the first and the third windows on the right side.

It's unclear where the shooter was stationed. The shots might have come from the apartment complex or the park along the east side of US 19, Shelor said.

The damaged bus continued onto State Road 590 and pulled over on Owen Drive. The 12 students were unloaded. Some parents picked up their children; the rest were put on a new bus.

Officers fanned out in the neighborhood, knocking on doors and looking through the park for anyone who might have fired the pellet gun.

Eight-year-old Emiliana Bonilla was riding on the right side of the bus - a few windows back from where the shots entered.

"I just heard like this kid said there was a rock or a BB gun shooting over his head," she said. "Everyone was crying."

School District Superintendent Clayton Wilcox came to the bus scene because he had been told initially that a student was hurt in the shooting.

He pointed to the crowd of people lining up to look at the bus and tried to put the shooting in context.

With the Columbine anniversary Friday and the recent Virginia Tech shooting, Wilcox said, "I think people have a heightened awareness."

Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or 727 445-4157.