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Man barges onto bus full of elementary school students, threatens driver with knife

A man barged onto a school bus full of children in a small community in San Diego County on Friday and pulled a knife on the driver before witnesses dragged him away, authorities said.

Some parents standing nearby and an older child on the bus in Campo helped the screaming children escape safely out the bus' emergency door in the back, sheriff's Sgt. William Uelen said in a statement. Responding deputies took Matthew D. Barker, 37, into custody.

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No children or any of the adults were injured, Uelen said.

"They were shaken up," he told OnSceneTV, referring to the students. "They were all brought to school and brought to a classroom where they could be talked to and calmed down."

He said Barker may have been under the influence of drugs. It wasn't immediately clear whether he was to be taken to a hospital or be jailed immediately on suspicion of assault.

Students from Campo Elementary School had just gotten onto their bus as usual shortly before 8:30 a.m. in front of an apartment complex on Jeb Stuart Road, Uelen said.

A man ran toward the bus just as the driver started pulling away, he said. The driver stopped, thinking it was a father trying to hold the bus for a child running late.

The driver opened the bus door, but when the man began climbing up the bus steps, the driver told him he couldn't come on board, Uelen said.

The man kept boarding anyway and pushed past the driver, toward the children, he said.

One student's grandmother saw what was happening and got onto the bus to help the driver.

The intruder pulled a knife and an older student ushered the children toward the back of the bus, Uelen said.

"The kids started screaming," the sergeant said.

The student called for help, drawing other parents who got the bus' back door open and helped the students escape.

The driver yelled that a knife was being held to his head, Uelen said. A parent flagged down a man who was driving by on his way to work. That driver stopped, jumped onto the bus and helped pry the knife out of the man's hand and pull him off the bus.

The suspect did not struggle with deputies as they handcuffed him, Uelen said.

Kathy Granger, superintendent of the Mountain Empire Unified School District, issued a statement to parents saying counselors would be on the elementary school campus Tuesday to assist any children who want to talk about the incident.

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She said the bus driver responded immediately to keep the children and himself safe when the man got on the bus.

"Students assisted each other in exiting the bus," Granger said. "No students were harmed; the driver is uninjured. Students were transported to school on another bus. … We take safety very seriously and want to assure you our buses remain a safe form of transportation."

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