Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 12:39 am | Fair 47º

 
 
 
 

No Weapon Found After Daylong Lockdown at San Marcos High School

Search continues but authorities make no arrests. Classes resume Friday

After an exhaustive manhunt that put three schools on lockdown Thursday, Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies made no arrests in a search for a teenager reportedly seen with a gun near San Marcos High School.

The day’s events included a low-circling sheriff’s helicopter, road closures, and armed authorities conducting an extensive search of the campus and surrounding neighborhoods well into the evening.

In addition to the San Marcos campus, 4750 Hollister Ave., El Camino School, 5020 San Simeon Drive, and Hollister School, 4950 Anita Lane, were locked down. Hollister was not shut down by the Sheriff’s Department, said Drew Sugars, a department spokesman. El Camino and Hollister are both in the Goleta Union School District.

The Santa Barbara School District kept parents, faculty and staff informed of developments through e-mails and telephone alerts, and updated its Web site throughout the day. The TeleParent automated parental notification system is a new program to the district, and district communications coordinator Barbara Keyani said it has “really gotten a workout” in the past year, with major wildfires, swine flu and lockdowns.

Sheriff’s deputies initially responded to a 10:15 a.m. report of an altercation between two groups of Hispanic male youth near the Turnpike Shopping Center across from the high school.

A witness reported seeing a group of teenagers in a verbal confrontation with another group of teens who were driving in a car, according to a statement issued by the Sheriff’s Department and the Santa Barbara School District.

The witness believed one of the males on the street pulled a gun and pointed it at the vehicle before he and his three companions ran across Turnpike in the direction of the school, the statement said.

The suspect was last seen running toward San Marcos’ upper parking lot with three others, all of whom were carrying backpacks. The suspect was described as 16 to 19 years old with a buzz haircut and no facial hair, and wearing a white T-shirt, dark pants and yellow boxers. He allegedly pulled a gun, believed to be a .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun, out of the right pocket of his pants.

The Turnpike Shopping Center was searched and cleared Thursday morning, and more officers were deployed to search the corners of campus and nearby areas. Hollister Avenue was closed from Turnpike Road to Puente Drive for some time, and MTD bus routes in the area were rerouted. Traffic on South Turnpike Road at Highway 101 also was redirected.

Meanwhile, San Marcos staff began working with the school’s resource officer to begin a campus-wide lockdown.

A law-enforcement helicopter circles San Marcos High during the search for a suspect.
A law-enforcement helicopter circles San Marcos High during the search for a suspect. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Sheriff’s deputies searched the school for the next several hours, attempting to determine who had been involved in the confrontation. Four male students were identified as possibly being involved, and all four were cooperative with authorities.

“After being informed of the situation, they disclosed that they had been in a confrontation off campus and that one of them had actually pointed a sports drink bottle at the car,” the statement said.

As they continued their search for a weapon, authorities determined the school was no longer in danger and officials began releasing the 1,800 students around 3:50 p.m. The students were allowed to leave in small groups, with students who had their own cars the last to leave campus, Sugars said.

No arrests were made and no criminal charges will be filed, Sugars said. The school will continue its own investigation into whether any campus rules were actually broken, and Principal Norm Clevenger is expected to talk about the matter with students Friday. Counseling services will be available to students and staff.

Parents picking up their children were directed to the Turnpike Shopping Center parking lot.

While waiting for their parents, Rozelle Neban and Danielle Rich, both 15, shared a bit about their day in lockdown.

“When we first heard about it, we thought it was a drill,” Neban said. As the hours progressed, however, the students realized it was the real thing.

Neban said they were given food from the cafeteria and bottled water throughout the day.

“At first, people were really scared, but then we were, like, this is really boring,” chimed in Rich.

School district officials sent out a letter to parents Thursday afternoon.

“We want to thank the students and parents for their patience and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department for the thorough work they did in keeping children safe,” the letter said. “Teachers and staff have done a fine job handling a very difficult situation.”

School administrators and sheriff’s staff met after the students were evacuated to discuss the day’s events. Classes will resume Friday.

The campus will remain shut down and searched by authorities overnight, Sugars said. A search of the surrounding neighborhoods also will continue into the evening.

Although it may have been inconvenient, authorities prioritize the safety of the children, Sugars said.

“We really appreciate everyone’s patience,” he said.

One week ago, and one mile away, Vieja Valley School, 434 Nogal Drive, was locked down for an hour after a passerby reported that a man was carrying a large gun near the campus. Authorities later confirmed that a nearby resident had carried an unloaded shotgun to his house from his car.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Staff writer Lara Cooper contributed to this report and can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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