ST PAUL, Minn. — Maggie Zimmerman is a parent of one of the kindergarten students and was chaperoning the field trip when they discovered the man on the bus.
“He kind of popped his head up and then popped back down again. So, I mean, he was hiding,” she said.
Zimmerman is upset that the man was released from the Ramsey County Jail because of jurisdiction issues, and is free while the Minneapolis Police Department continues the investigation.
“I feel like as long as he’s out there, he will just keep getting on buses,” she said.
According to court records, the man has a history of sneaking onto school buses. He was convicted of 5th-degree criminal sexual conduct in 2011 for masturbating on a Minneapolis school bus with students on board.
Then in 2016, while his last sex case was pending, court papers say the man admitted to his probation agent, “most Sundays between 10 and noon, he goes to the bus depot on 59th and masturbates on the buses.”
At his sentencing, the judge ordered the man “can not enter school buses or bus garages,” according to the sentencing order.
“This is like a serial crime for him. This is what he does. He hops on buses,” Zimmerman said.
Police continue to investigate the circumstances that landed a registered sex offender in a school bus transporting students from the St. Paul Public Schools back from a field trip.
Officers responded to a 911 call and found the 61-year-old man inside a bus parked in front of Chelsea Heights Elementary School. The man told police he had been at the Walker Art Center and somehow boarded the wrong bus. Investigators say it is possible he was supposed to get on a Metro Mobility bus at the Walker Art Center.
After speaking with the 61-year-old, police learned he was a registered sex offender and arrested him for a registration violation.
Kevin J. Burns, Director of Communications for St. Paul Public Schools issued the following statement:
During a bus ride back to the school from a field trip in Minneapolis on Feb. 28, an unidentified adult was discovered sitting in the back of a school bus returning to Chelsea Heights Elementary.
The driver immediately called dispatch to alert police. Students were under the supervision of school staff at all times.
The adult was taken into custody at the school without incident by the St. Paul Police Department and they are investigating the individual.
St. Paul Public Schools is conducting its own investigation to learn more about what happened and to strengthen our bus safety procedures. SSPS has also informed its school bus contractors about the incident to reinforce our required safety protocols.
The school is in regular communication with families affected by this situation.
The principal of Chelsea Heights also sent out a letter to families, writing:
During the ride home from a field trip at the Walker Art Center yesterday, an unknown man was discovered sitting in the back of the school bus. Understandably, this situation is a serious safety issue that concerns me and my staff.
Video recordings showed that the man boarded after the driver exited the bus prior to arriving at the Walker Art Center to pick up students. The man was discovered when the bus was en route back to Chelsea Heights Elementary. The driver then immediately called dispatch to alert police where he was arrested once all students were back inside the school.
Today, the Saint Paul Police informed us that the unknown man was criminally charged and this incident is part of an active investigation. We have also learned the man is a registered sex offender. This is disturbing to us all and we are working closely with police to support their investigation.
At no time were students unsupervised by teachers and chaperones. Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) is conducting its own investigation to learn more about what happened and to strengthen our bus safety procedures. SPPS has also informed its school bus contractors about the incident to reinforce our required safety protocols. When a driver enters or exits a bus, they must walk through to verify that the bus is empty and ready for its next route.
Thank you for your support as we seek to ensure this does not happen again. Please accept my apology for any anxiety this incident caused you or your child.