School Bus Driver Convicted for Threatening to Kill Children
A Santa Ana school bus driver who held a flame near a five-gallon bottle of gasoline and threatened to kill 10 young passengers on his bus was convicted Thursday of 10 counts of felony child endangerment and 10 counts of false imprisonment.
Ignacio R. Granados, 26, of Santa Ana, faces up to 12 years in prison when he is sentenced by Superior Court Judge David O. Carter on Oct. 26.
Granados was arrested Feb. 20, shortly after some of the parents complained to Santa Ana police that he had taken their children to Santiago Park after school instead of to their homes and threatened them with the gasoline. The children, ages 8-12, have learning disabilities.
Granados told them in the morning he would kill them if they didn’t become less rowdy and stop using foul language.
Four of the children testified that when Granados picked his passengers up in the afternoon, he took two of them home and then took the rest to the park by way of the freeway. He ordered one of the children to bring out a bottle of gasoline stored in the back of the bus, then lit a cigarette lighter and waved it several times near a wick in the bottle.
No one was physically injured, and Granados took them home about an hour later.
Granados was an employee of the Anaheim-based Taylor Bus Service, which contracts to provide transportation in the Santa Ana Unified School District. Prosecutors said Granados had worked there a little more than a year. The children were from Martin and Lincoln elementary schools.
Granados, who has been in jail since the incident, did not testify. But his lawyers argued that the children had been rowdy on the bus and Granados had meant only to scare them into behaving in the future.
But a prosecution expert on gasoline testified that Granados came close to killing everyone on the bus when he put the lighter near the wick in the bottle.
“It was an extremely dangerous situation,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Nat Glover said. “It was just a matter of chance that the bus didn’t catch on fire or explode.”
One of the children testified that he was the last to be dropped off at home and that Granados told him he would kill the boy’s parents if he told them what had happened.
“These kids were scared to death,” Glover said. “We can be thankful that no one was hurt.”
The trial lasted about a week, and jurors deliberated less than half a day.
Records show Granados was placed on probation in 1984 after he was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of harassing a married school teacher.