November 26, 1997 in Nation/World

School Bus Driver Shot And Killed; Gunman Arrested Stevens County Students Safe After Fleeing Through Emergency Exit

Robin Rivers And Adam Lynn S Staff writer

A Stevens County man with a history of mental problems surrendered Tuesday night to deputies after shooting and killing a school bus driver, said Stevens County Sheriff Craig Thayer.

James Edward Iverson, 45, of Orient, was booked into the Stevens County Jail on a charge of assault. A first-degree murder charge is pending an investigation, Thayer said.

Deputies have no motive for the shooting.

The seven children on the bus were not injured.

Thayer said Iverson has a history of violence and mental problems.

“This is an obvious, senseless act of violence,” Thayer said.

Frank M. Eslick, 61, a bus driver for the Orient School District, was pronounced dead at the scene, Thayer said.

Iverson started randomly shooting vehicles on McNitt Road, just east of Pierre Lake Road, about 3 p.m. Tuesday, Thayer said. Shots were fired at a pickup truck, carrying two loggers, but no one was injured.

Just after 3:30 p.m., the school bus stopped in front of Iverson’s home to drop off kids, including one of Iverson’s children, Thayer said.

As Iverson began shooting at the bus with a high-powered rifle, the students, who ranged in age from kindergarteners to high schoolers, ran out the back emergency exit, and barricaded themselves in a nearby home, Thayer said.

Stevens County deputies surrounded Iverson’s home. With the help of a negotiator, Iverson surrendered about 5:15 p.m.

No one else was in the home with Iverson, Thayer said.

Eslick was driving his regular bus route from east to west on McNitt Road, about 90 miles north of Spokane, when the shootings occurred.

Orient School Superintendent Steve Holland said school would open as usual today, and counselors would be available to help traumatized students.

Orient resident Jerry Gallo said Iverson has spent his entire life in the area.

“He pretty much kept to himself, never got out much,” Gallo said. “He never mingled in the area,” but it was known that he had some problems.

Gallo is a friend of Scott Moe, the driver of the pickup truck that was hit with bullets before the bus shooting. Gallo said he helped Moe calm down after the shooting.

“One bullet hole went through the windshield, one through the hood into the motor, and one into the door on the side,” Gallo said. “It looked like it should have taken the driver without no trouble.”

The Washington State Patrol is helping with the investigation.

, DataTimes

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