Arrested Friday, March 5, according to Cherokee County Sheriff Larry Wilson, was James Allen Waddell, 20, of 2990 County Road 51 in Cedar Bluff. Waddell has been charged with five counts of shooting into an occupied vehicle and unlawful breaking and entering of a vehicle. Agents recovered a .22 caliber rifle as evidence.
Capt. Joe Nabors of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation also said agents question many suspects since the investigation began and were convinced Waddell pulled the trigger.
Investigators executed a search warrant at Waddell's home Thursday, March 4,and recovered a .22-caliber rifle that investigators believe was used in the shooting.
Wilson said a passenger vehicle was struck by a bullet in December along the same stretch of road, but could not confirm if Waddell was involvedin that incident.
"We are still investigating the possibility that the two shootings are connected," Wilson said.
Waddell was arrested at the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office after authorities picked him up for questioning, Wilson said.
Waddell gave no motive for the shooting and said they were accidental,reports said.
No additional arrests are expected at this time, agents said.
According to reports, School Bus 40 was hit five times around 3 p.m. Tuesday as it traveled along Alabama Highway 9 north of Cedar Bluff. Five people, including four students and Patsy Richardson, driver, were on the bus at the time. Fortunately no injuries were reported.
Richardson said she drove the bus about a half-mile to her residence where she called 911 to report the incident. All available law enforcement officers in the areas responded to assist. The shooting scene was roped off immediately to preserve evidence that might be at the location. An officer discovered one flattened bullet on the roadside, which apparently hit the bus and then fell to the ground. Law enforcement agents went over the bus for more evidence. The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences also went over the bus for possibly clues, reports said. The investigation continued throughout the night, reports say.
Richardson reported hearing multiple shots, but did not see anyone. Local law enforcement agents believe the shots were fired from an old barn approximately 40 yards off the roadway. At first, students thought they heard firecrackers, reports say, but then they saw shattered glass and smoke. When they learned differently, they all got down on the floor of the bus.”
“We are so fortunate we did not have a tragedy,” said Kay Davis, superintendent, Cherokee County Schools. Neither the driver nor the children were not hurt. Today really opened our eyes that we need some kind of communication device on the bus.”
Mrs. Davis made the request to look into new communication devices for each bus during the Cherokee County Board of Education meeting, which was held the evening of the shooting.
A deputy, as a precaution, followed Richardson, who was driving a substitute bus on the route the next day. Mrs. Davis was proud to report that Wednesday’s bus ride proceeded without incident.
“I didn’t hear of any parents who kept their children off the bus,” said Mrs. Davis. “I can’t say enough about our driver, Patsy Richardson. She said, ‘Mrs. Davis, I will be there for them.’ She is just a real trooper. She assured the children that everything would be all right. I just can’t get it out of mind how bad it could have been.”
Also on Wednesday, state and local law enforcement agents set up a roadblock in the area and questioned passing motorists if they had seen or heard anything out of the ordinary the day of the shooting.
As they passed the barn, which was surrounded by police cars and vans, students were urged to stay to the left side of the bus.
Waddell is currently lodged in the Cherokee County Detention Center on $50,000 bond for each charge