UPPER MARLBORO, Md. - Natalie Brower, the woman who was driving a Prince George’s County school bus when police say three teens boarded and tried to kill another teen, opened up about her harrowing experience on Friday.
"When I saw the handle of that gun, the only thing I could do was call on the name of Jesus. And when I called on the name of Jesus, that gun jammed, and I saw those live rounds come out of the clip. Can’t nobody tell me that Jesus, me calling on that name, changed that whole situation," Brower said.
Brower was hailed a hero by county officials at the news conference announcing the arrest of the 15-year-old armed suspect nicknamed "Baby K."
County leaders mentioned the bus driver did not run from her seat during the traumatizing ordeal, and ended up getting both the bus aide and victim to safety where the victim could then receive life-saving care.
She told reporters she was on her second to last stop on May 1 when suspects boarded the bus in what Brower described as a "split second." She said the three did not say anything to her or the victim before starting to beat and kick the student still onboard.
She described that student as not disorderly and always respectful, expressing shock that something like this could happen to him.
"The furthest thing that came to my mind was somebody jumping on the bus, attempting to kill someone," she said. "I never even, it never even came to my thoughts. So, I was literally frozen. I couldn’t move. I was thinking about that child."
Brower said she began to pray when she saw the gun — which wound up jamming three different times — and has cried in the days after. FOX 5 has learned she’s seeing a counselor and being treated for insomnia while she deals with the trauma from the assault.
Brower also mentioned the victim expressed fear the suspects were trying to kill him and could return.
She told FOX 5 the assault began in the seat just behind hers and now realizes she could’ve also been shot and killed that day.
Brower and her union chair, Martin Diggs, both called for the school system to step up safety in the wake of the incident. Brower had described an assault happening on the bus before.
ACE-AFSCME Local 2250 President Diggs called on the school system to add more security – not SROs but security – to both its schools and buses. He called for properly working camera equipment and noted they had later learned there is a button on the school radios that are supposed to be able to call the police but they're not connected. He also wants aides added to every bus.
"We don’t want the schoolyard to be a graveyard," Diggs said. "We want the county to take these safety recommendations seriously and make some changes now. We’re already behind the 8-ball."
Brower told FOX 5 she began driving for Prince George’s in 2020 because she loves kids but does not think she’ll return.
PGCPS Communications Director Meghan Gebreselassie said in a statement: "Safety and security staff and transportation supervisory staff attended a training session for this type of incident and we are coordinating with local law enforcement to inform our personnel on the proper response. Additionally, we are working to schedule training with the PGCPS and the PGPD to inform staff of the PD's response. We are also looking at best practices and additional processes to implement for transportation staff.
Gebraselassie did not answer any follow-up questions on what exact "best practices and additional processes to implement" were being considered.
PGCPS still has not answered a number of serious questions regarding the shooting, especially on the issue of truancy. Different county officials are connecting the matter to truancy and truancy not being enforced.
Councilmember Edward Burroughs took time to interview with FOX 5 while out of the office on Friday. He told FOX 5 it’s his understanding Baby K was at one point a PGCPS student who was supposed to be attending an alternative school.
"This situation, that should be addressed in very transparent manner because there is so many things we can learn from what occurred here," said Burroughs, calling on the school system to take responsibility, "We know when we have students who are engaging in this behavior and they’re not in school, it only gets worse. The safest place for an at-risk youth to be is in the presence of a loving adult. And if they’re not getting that from home, it’s often the schools … "
Burroughs also noted the PGCPS student enrollment has dropped significantly from pre-pandemic school years and believes that is also not being tracked properly either. Burroughs added at one point that parents do need to take more accountability.
When asked what message she would give to other young people engaging in violent activity, Brower told them to think. Think about their families and themselves.
"You’re a child and now you’re in an adult situation." she said. "I just pray for them. Find God seek God. Put love in your life, not hate. To want to kill somebody at that young age, is just overwhelming," said Brower.
Brower said the bus she drove was coming from an alternative school called Green Valley Academy. She also said the school reached out immediately after the incident to ask if she was okay.
She claims no one from the school system has reached out to her since. She says she would not wish this experience on her worst enemy.