BRANDON (FOX 13) - Text messages from a student on the way to school may have prevented a crime, after an 18-year-old brought a loaded gun and ski mask onto a Hillsborough County school bus Wednesday, deputies said.
The ordeal unfolded as the bus, carrying seven students, was headed to Brandon Alternative School.
Detectives said another student on the bus saw Jamarcus Simms load a 9mm handgun, then hide it and a ski mask four seats behind the driver.
The witness then texted a relative, who called 911 and helped lead authorities right to the bus, then the hidden weapon, then to Simms.
"If you see something, say something and if you're in a place where you can't say something, text something," said Cristal Nunez, a spokesperson for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. "With the way that technology is now, it's pretty smart of the student to say, 'I probably can't make the call because people are going to hear but maybe I can shoot a text to someone that can make the call and can be on the phone with law enforcement to try to stop something potentially bad from happening.'"
Nunez said investigators determined the gun was stolen from Temple Terrace and are trying to figure out whether Simms or someone else stole it.
Detectives have not yet figured out what Simms was planning.
"We're trying to interview the suspect to see, did he have intentions of taking it to school? Did he realize someone was watching him and that's why he hid it? Or was he hiding it on the bus so that after school he could grab the items where he hid them?" said Cristal Nunez, a spokesperson for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. "Whatever the out come was going to be or whatever the suspect had planned, he was stopped in his tracks by the smart moves of that witness."
This is not Simms' first arrest; according to the Sheriff's Office his previous charges include domestic battery, petty theft and grand theft.
Tanya Arja, a spokesperson for Hillsborough County Schools, echoed what deputies said about the student who reported the gun.
"We are greatful to the student who saw this on the bus and notified their relative very quickly," she said. "We often rely on our students and encourage our students that if they see anything, if they hear anything to please let an adult know."